Big Red wins late again, defeats St. C

STEUBENVILLE – The defense woke up the offense and Big Red collected its ninth straight victory Thursday at Vacarro Field.

Justin Corsi’s sharp single to right plated Branden Jones with the winning run in the seventh inning as Fred Heatherington’s club earned a 7-6 come-from-behind triumph over St. Clairsville.

Big Red, which was playing its final regular season home game, jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead after two. The Red Devils, however, refused to go away. Tom Sliva’s squad battled back and plated two runs each in the third, fourth and fifth innings.

St. Clairsville threatened again in the sixth; Malik Gummer singled up the middle off Paul Runkel, who took over for Corsi on the hill. He advanced on Lewis Mitchell’s sacrifice bunt. Gummer attempted to score on Michael Jacob’s single but a strong throw from Big Red’s Jones in right field cut him down at the plate (catcher Kai McClurg making the tag).

On Runkel’s first pitch to Patrick Buchanan, McClurg gunned down Jacob as he attempted to steal second (shortstop Bryan Pierro getting the put out).

The now 19-4 Big Red put a little rally together in the bottom of the frame, Lucas Herrington reached after being clipped by a pitch and Dimitri Collaros worked St. Clairsville starter Branden Ducker for a two-out walk. Anthony Zorne hit a shot to the right side that appeared to be a base hit. Jacob, the Red Devils’ first baseman, made a diving catch, however, to retire the side.

In the top of the seventh, Runkel induced a grounder to third for the first out. St. Clairsville’s Daulton Freeman ripped a hard liner that was snagged by Steubenville second baseman Collaros. Cody Goletz then singled. He was tagged out, however, after making a move towards second.

Big Red’s game-winning rally began when Niko Petrides walked. Ben Coleman relieved Ducker and Jones, who failed on a first pitch bunt attempt, drove one to deep center. His triple allowed Petrides to race home with the tying tally. After McClurg was retired, Corsi delivered his walk-off base knock.

“I’m not too happy with the way we played,” Heatherington, whose team was blanked by St. Clairsville back in April, said. “We jumped out 4-0 then we sort of died. You can’t do that against a team like St. Clairsville that is not going to quit. But, our kids never gave up.

“We just weren’t in it until Kai picked their runner off second. That seemed to get our heads back in the game. It kind of woke us up. We weren’t playing the game. We were playing not to lose and you can’t do that. You have to play to win.”

Big Red, which visits Edison this afternoon weather permitting, got its first two runs thanks to a Jones triple to deep right. His three-bagger scored Pierro (he led off with a single) and Petrides who walked.

Zorne’s two-out single scored two more in the second. Zorne also had a run-scoring knock in the fourth. Big Red’s first five runs all came with two outs.

St. Clairsville (9-10) received a RBI single from Jacob in the third. Luke Slavik and Gummer drove home runs in the fourth (the big blow of the inning was Buchanan’s double off the chalk in right). Coleman and Goletz delivered RBI in the fifth.

The Red Devils, who host Indian Creek today, outhit Big Red 10-6.

“Tough loss,” a dejected Sliva stated. “They (Big Red) are so well-coached; they do a great job. Their kids are so disciplined. They are a quality program. We came up here hoping to compete with them and we did. Our kids played hard today.”

Corsi retired the first seven batters he faced before encountering problems in the third. Runkel, who threw a shutout against Union Local on Wednesday, earned the pitching victory.

“Justin had a good first two innings, then he started to struggle and couldn’t find it,” Heatherington commented. “Paul pitched last night but said his arm was fine so we went with him. He did a good job for us.

“Kai got a big pick off then we put together a big inning at the end. His play really helped us get our momentum back.”