Rubish pitches Big Red to 25th district title

EMBRACING — Steubenville pitcher Mason Rubish and catcher Clayton Criss celebrate winning a Div. II district title over Harrison Central on Wednesday in Cambridge. (Photo by Kim North)

CAMBRIDGE — Mason Rubish pitched Steubenville out of trouble Tuesday night in relief. Twenty-four hours later, the lanky senior hurled a complete game to lead Big Red to its 25th district championship and another berth in the regionals.

Top-seeded Steubenville (17-6) parlayed a walk, stolen base, error and wild pitch into two runs in the first inning and then held on to nip OVAC rival and No. 4 seed Harrison Central, 2-1, in the East 2 District title game at overcast Don Coss Field inside the City Parks Complex Wednesday.

“We scored two quick runs in the first and hung on from there,” veteran Steubenville head coach Fred Heatherington said after picking up career win No. 602. “Man did Mason pitch a heckuva game. He got us out of a situation in the seventh (Tuesday) and he got us out of a few situations (Wednesday). We kind of sat on that 2-0 lead, but he made the pitches when he had to.”

Heatherington wasn’t one bit worried about handing the ball to Rubish.

“He was fine. He only threw 16 pitches yesterday,” he said. “Man did he battle. He battled last night and he battled the whole game today. Gloomy day, gloomy play, but we’ll take it. We’re moving on.”

“I was feeling great,” Rubish said. “Even when they got runners on base. I just stayed relaxed and did what I was taught to do.”

For Huskies head coach Mike Valesko and his squad, the loss was very hard to take as more than a few tears were shed in the dugout.

“They scored two runs in the first inning and the ball never left the infield,” Valesko said. “I thought Andrew (Clelland) was dominant today. He only gave up three hits. I was really impressed with his effort today.”

Ohio State-bound Alec Taylor drew a one-out walk and quickly swiped second. Johnny Agresta’s bouncer to short was bobbled and then thrown wildly to first, allowing Taylor to scamper home and Agresta to move to second. A groundout moved Agresta to third and he raced home as the second pitch to Jake Bernard skipped to the backstop.

The game then turned into a pitcher’s duel between Rubish and Clelland. The hard-throwing righthanders combined to put up 11 goose eggs. Rubish finished with eight strikeouts and no walks while scattering eight singles. He threw 100 pitches, with 76 being strikes. Clelland, meanwhile, fanned half-a-dozen and issued four free passes. He tossed 86 pitches in six frames, with 49 being strikes.

“We just couldn’t get that clutch hit when we needed it,” Valesko said. “But we had our chances.”

Indeed Harrison Central did.

The Huskies had runners on first and third with two outs in the second, but Rubish got a swinging strikeout to escape without any damage. An inning later, No. 9 hitter Corey Dunlap singled softly to left and Kobe Mitchell bunted down the first base line. Rubish and Mitchell got tangled up as the ball trickled inside the chalk, with Rubish falling down and Mitchell reaching first base safely. Dunlap headed for third but was pegged out on a rocket from Nico Kausky, who alertly picked up the loose ball, to Agresta. As fate would have it, the next batter, Logan Elliott, singled sharply to right-center.

Rubish pitched his way out of that jam with a strikeout and an infield popup.

“They make a mistake and give us a chance, but we make a baserunning mistake,” Valesko said. “The next guy gets a hit and that should be guys at first and second with a run on the board.”

The Huskies escaped damage themselves in the bottom of the fourth. Big Red had the bases-loaded and one out, but a grounder to J.R. Heavilin at second was relayed to shortstop Elliott who stepped on second and threw to first for a double play as Austin Chappell had a fine stretch and scoop.

Harrison Central finally got on the board in its last at-bat. Heavilin and Chappell collected back-to-back singles leading off and Chappell was replaced by Dylan Guthrie on the bases as a pinchrunner. Caden Arbaugh’s sacrifice bunt was thrown wildly to first as Heavilin sprinted home, Guthrie took third and Arbaugh went to second. However, Dunlap’s bunt went right to Rubish who flipped to Criss who tagged out Guthrie. A called third strike and a liner to right preserved the victory.

When asked whether it mattered who the regional opponent is, Heatherington quickly replied, “we always talk about it doesn’t matter who we play. It doesn’t matter where we play. It’s how we play. That’s all we focus on. So it doesn’t matter.

“This (win) keeps our tradition going. These guys have a hard way to go from what the past teams have done and what other teams have set in the past. These kids know that and that’s why they work hard and battle.”

Bernard and Dom DeFrances each doubled for Big Red. Criss had an infield single. Chappell singled twice for the Huskies.

Big Red will face third-seeded John Glenn, which upset No. 2 Indian Valley, 1-0, Wednesday night in Coshocton. That contest will be played a week from today at 5 p.m. at Bob Wren Stadium and Trautwein Field on the campus of Ohio University in Athens. The other semifinal, at 2 p.m. next Thursday, will include the winners of today’s games between Circleville and Hillsboro and Athens and Unioto.

Steubenville 2, Harrison Central 1

Harrison Central 0-0-0 0-0-0 1– 1 8 1

Steubenville 2-0-0 0-0-0 x — 2 3 1

HARRISON CENTRAL: Clelland lp (6K, 4BB) and Dalton; Chappell 2S

STEUBENVILLE: Rubish wp (8K, 0BB) and Criss; Bernard D; Francis D