Huskies in Final Four
COLUMBUS – The Harrison Central baseball team is entering unchartered waters.
The Huskies will meet Plain City Jonathan Alder in the Division II state semifinals on the grass surface at Huntington Park at 4 p.m. Thursday.
That survivor advances to Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship game against the Akron Hoban-Defiance victor. Defiance is the No. 1 ranked team in the state. Those teams play the final state semifinal game of Thursday’s quadruple header with first pitch slated for 7 p.m.
“These guys have battled day-in and day-out every game this season,” second-year Harrison Central head coach Justin Clifford said. “It’s been fun to come to work every day, so to say.”
The Huskies reeled off nine straight wins to start the season before falling at Buckeye Local. They won three more before losing back-to-back games to Buckeye 8 rivals Edison and Indian Creek. Three more victories had them at 15-3 before they dropped consecutive games to Oak Glen and Martins Ferry in early May.
Another trio of wins had them sitting at 18-5, but back-to-back setbacks to Indian Creek and Linsly (EOBL championship game) ended the regular season on a down note.
“You never throw your best when you’re getting ready for the tournament,” Clifford advised. “Not that the guys we threw aren’t competitors.”
Once the postseason began, the Huskies’ mission also got under way.
After beating Buckeye Local, 13-3, in six innings to start sectional action, the Huskies survived an 8-7 win over Carrollton in 12 innings.
The 6-2 district win over Dover at Vaccaro Field advanced the squad further than any team in school history.
Senior Rashaen Mitchell was nothing short of superlative in a 3-0 whitewashing of Vincent Warren in the regional semifinals. The lanky lefty struck out 10, walked four and only yielded one harmless single. If that wasn’t enough, he also singled twice and doubled.
All of that despite a blister on his pitching hand and cramps late in the game.
“There was no way I was coming out of that game,” Mitchell disclosed.
Clifford was almost at a loss for words when describing Mitchell’s gutsy effort.
“What can you say about Rashaen Mitchell?” he asked. “What did he give up, just the one hit? Another 3-for-4 at the plate … just a great performance by him.”
Harrison Central trailed Waverly 7-1 after three innings in the regional final, but clawed its way back with an 8-7 win after scoring in the bottom of the seventh off a balk.
“That was amazing,” Clifford said of that win. “I’m almost at a loss for words.”
Several Huskies have stepped up their games during the postseason, but none more than Mitchell.
“Rashaen had a pretty special weekend last week,” Clifford said. “Two wins on the mound, 14 strikeouts, only allowed one hit and he had six himself. That pretty much speaks for itself, but with that being said, we had so many guys step up in that second game and make big plays when we needed them to.”
Mitchell, no doubt the team leader, has a team-high .558 batting average with a team-best 32 RBIs. His 12 doubles and four triples also are team highs. He is also 16-of-18 in stolen bases.
The southpaw has all five postseason victories on the hill, with two coming in relief. He is 10-1 on the year with an ERA under one. He has recorded 94 punchouts and walked 35 batters in 56 innings of work.
The Huskies’ No. 2 pitcher is classmate Nick Pelegreen. He is 3-1 on the season and has started the Carrollton and Waverly games.
“It makes my job a whole lot easier with two horses on the mound like Rashaen and Nick,” Clifford noted.
Pelegreen is also the second-leading run producer for Harrison Central with 31 RBIs.
He is the lone Huskie to slug a home run. He has two. He hits at a .372 clip and has three doubles.
Junior Dalton Rutter, the rangy centerfielder, sets the table for the Huskies. The left-handed hitter has a .427 average and has scored a team-high 41 runs. He has driven home 12 runs and has 43 singles among his 44 hits. He is also 6-of-7 in stolen bases.
Freshman Dustin Redish is the Huskies’ No. 2 hitter. Playing well beyond his age of 15, Redish has developed into one of the premier shortstops. However, his best performances have come in a pair of middle relief stints when he closed the door against Carrollton and Waverly and gave his team a chance to win.
Mitchell and Pelegreen hit out of the No. 3 and No. 4 holes, respectively, with senior third baseman Drew Horn checking in at the No. 5 spot. He has a .311 norm with six two-baggers and 17 RBIs.
The No. 6 hitter is Staten. He has eight doubles and 14 RBIs while hitting .226. Next is designated hitter Kuryn, who bats .268 with four doubles and 17 RBI. Kowalski, the second baseman, has bumped his average above the .300 mark (.316). He has a dozen singles and had driven in nine runs.
Rose plays left field for the Huskies.