STEUBENVILLE - They say it's hard to beat a team three times.
What Edison found out against Steubenville Big Red, which it beat three times previously, Saturday at Vaccaro Field in the Ohio Division II sectional final is that it is close to impossible to beat a team four times.
Close to, but not actually impossible.
A LOT OF BASEBALL AT VACCARO FIELD — Edison’s Koby Sronce slides into third base as Steubenville Big Red’s Lucky McClurg prepares to apply the tag and while Wildcats coach Mike Collopy watches the play. Sronce was called safe during Saturday’s Ohio Division II?sectional tournament championship game at Vaccaro Field. The Wildcats won the championship after beating Steubenville, 6-4, in 15 innings.
-- Fred Younce
The Wildcats received outstanding pitching performances from four hurlers and banged out six runs on 12 hits, but it wasn't until Chad Wickham induced Big Red's Lucky McClurg to ground out to third baseman Mark Smyth with runners on second and third in the bottom of the 15th inning that Edison was able to secure the 6-4 win and the sectional crown.
"Whether they beat us three times or we beat them three times they're a heck of a team and a heck of a program," said Edison head coach Mike Collopy. "I have the utmost respect for (Big Red) coach (Fred) Heatherington. To be honest with you we didn't expect anything less. It's always a battle. They're kids showed heart. Our kids showed heart.
"It's just a matter of us being able to take advantage of a couple of things in the 15th inning."
Edison 6, Big Red 4, 15 innings
Edison 001 100 000 000 013 - 6 12 2
Big Red 020 000 000 000 011 - 4 14 2
EDISON: Marcus (1K, 1BB), Smyth (4th, 5K, 2BB), Stagani (8th, 7K, 1BB), Wickham (WP, 11th, 3K, 0BB) and Bertha, Horan (9). Wickham s, 2rbi; Pasek 4s, 2rbi, r; Stagani s; Smyth s, rbi; Hilt 2s, 2r; Marcus s; Rawlings rbi, r; Sronce 2s, 2r.
BIG RED: J. Pierro (6K, 5BB), Corsi (LP, 11th, 4K, 4BB) and Vojvodich. B. Pierro s; J. Pierro 2s, r; Pizzoferrato d, s, rbi; Camilletti r; Vojvodich 2s, 2r; Petrella 4s, rbi; Linn 2s, rbi; Westlake d, rbi.
Edison received the combined efforts of Nolan Marcus, Smyth, Greg Stagani, and Wickham on the hill. Marcus was the starter, going three innings giving up two runs. Smyth, fighting an injury, went 4 while striking out five and and surrendering no runs. Stagani, who went seven innings Thursday in the 3-1 win over Buckeye Local, went 2, striking out seven giving up no runs as well.
Wickham was credited with the win, going five innings, striking out three and giving up two runs.
"Mark Smyth was a warrior," said Collopy. "I don't think anyone knows what he's been through the last week. He came in at a tough spot. The game was kind of teetering a little bit and he came in and did a heck of a job. He had a big hit a couple different times.
"Our other pitchers were tough as well. Wick (Wickham) came in and stepped up. We threw the kitchen sink at them."
Big Red didn't exactly see poor efforts on the hill in defeat. Starting pitcher JoJo Pierro was an iron man going 10 frames, striking out six, and surrendering just two runs. Justin Corsi, who was saddled with the loss, struck out four in five innings.
"Both our pitchers and all their pitchers played well," said Heatherington. "It was a great game. We wish them well in the district, but I feel bad for our kids. Their kids played hard, our kids played hard, but I'm partial to our kids.
"Our two pitchers pitched their butts off, our defense played great, we just made some base running mistakes and it all came down to listening."
Big Red struck first in the second inning. Michael Camilletti led off the frame by drawing a walk followed by a Ryan Vojvodich single. Matt Petrella then smacked a single that scored Camilletti and put Vojvodich on third. The next batter, John Linn, then grounded into a double play, but Vojvodich was able to cross for the 2-0 Big Red lead.
In the top of the fourth Edison got one of those runs back. Koby Sronce picked up a one-out single. Sronce took second and hustled to third on a passed ball. The throw to third was close, but Sronce just beat the tag. Wickham pushed him home on a ground out to short making the score 2-1.
The game was tied up by the Wildcats one frame later. Phil Hilt drew a one-out walk and Marcus pushed him around to third with a single. Warren Rawlings then brought Hilt home with a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-2 after three and a half frames.
Fast forward through 10 innings, some missed opportunities with runners in scoring position by both team, a couple of base running mistakes, some strong pitching, and no runs scored to the top of the 14th where things got a little crazy.
"Our team played hard," said Heatherington. "I couldn't ask more from our team than how hard we played physically. We gave the best effort we could give. Mentally we weren't there.
"We had a chance to win the game four or five times and we didn't because we don't listen. Our season comes down to one word - listening.
"That's the way it's been all year."
Both team's endurance was tested through the marathon of a game as Edison stepped to bat. With two outs Josh Pasek earned a free pass and then took second on a passed ball, leading to an intentional walk of Stagani. Smyth then came through in the clutch with a two-out RBI single to score Pasek and give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead heading into the bottom of the 14th.
Big Red answered right back with a little two-out magic of its own. Pierro picked up a single, stole second, and then took third on a wild pitch. Pat Pizzoferrato followed Pierro's lead and crushed a shot to center for a double to extend the game another frame with the score tied at 3-all.
"Big Red showed a tremendous amount of desire and heart," said Collopy. "Not that anyone doesn't know that. It was just a heck of a game. It's a shame one team had to lose."
In the top of the 15th Hilt opened things up with a single. With one out Rawlings drew a walk and Sronce reached on an error to load the bases. Wickham then drew a walk to score Hilt and Pasek singled to score Rawlings and Sronce for what appeared to be a secure 6-3 Edison lead.
Big Red fought right back with back-to-back singles by Vojvodich and Petrella. Linn then grounded into a fielder's choice that put Petrella out at second, but left runners at first and third with one out. Number nine hitter Evan Westlake came up next and smashed a Wickham delivery off the left field fence for a double that scored Vojvodich and put Linn on third. Wickham stayed calm, struck out the next batter, and then forced the game ending McClurg ground out to secure the 6-4 win and a date with Dover Tuesday at 5 p.m. at River View High School.
"It just comes down to how much you want to win," said Collopy. "There's a lot of times where I'm not easy to play for. It's a tough program to play in.
"We ask a lot of our guys. They sacrifice a lot and the kids that are here in the program want to be here for the right reasons. They want to play baseball.
"I had no doubts. The only thing was that because it was such an emotional roller coaster we just tried to remain even."
With the loss Big Red season comes to a close and they say goodbye to another strong group of seniors.
"JoJo and Lucky have been with us in the varsity for two, three years and they gave us great effort," said Heatherington. "Cam (Camilletti) and Vojvodich were one-year senior players that gave us great effort.
"Our seniors always give us great effort. They know they have to do that at Big Red."