Early offensive outburst lifts Indian Creek over Harrison Central, 11-6
MINGO JUNCTION — When the Indian Creek baseball team woke up Wednesday morning, head coach Mike Cottis and his staff worked to do all they could to try to get the fourth and final spot in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 5A tournament that begins on Saturday.
If the Redskins could have defeated Harrison Central at home and Weir High could have stopped Oak Glen, Indian Creek would have traveled to face the Red Riders under the lights at Ed Bowman Field Wednesday night.
Indian Creek did its part, winning 11-6, but Weir fell one-run short. It wasn’t a guarantee that the Redskins (7-5) or Red Riders would have gotten the fourth spot with two wins in one day, but it would not have hurt.
Indian Creek was in seventh place as of Tuesday. After Wednesday’s win and defeating Oak Glen on Tuesday, it moved to fifth, just a few points shy of Warren.
“That was a big component of trying to get in, but the chips will fall where they may,” Cottis said.
For any hope, the Redskins had to take care of business against the young Huskies (5-7). All of 11 of their runs came in the first three innings.
“Credit to Indian Creek because they made the plays when they needed to, but we put them in many positions where it was easier for them to make the plays,” Harrison Central coach Mike Valesko said. “We struggled to throw strikes, and we had mental errors on top of that. It didn’t feel like there were many earned runs. It’s tough mentally to play through that.”
In the opening frame, Klay Cottis got the first run by scoring on an error. Josh Speaker then hit a sacrifice fly shortly before the Redskins drew four consecutive walks. Kody Cottis and Peyton Michalos drew theirs with the bases loaded. Coy Amis later scored on a wild pitch, and Indian Creek held a 5-0 advantage.
Speaker drove home a run on a groundout in the second, giving his team a 6-0 cushion. Already with two RBIs at the plate, Speaker cruised through the first two frames on the mound, including striking out the side in the second.
Harrison Central, though, began a comeback attempt with a four-run third.
Andrew Clelland, who missed time with an injury earlier this season, ripped a bases-clearing triple to cut the deficit in half. All three baserunners led off the inning with three bases on balls. Kobe Mitchell then brought Clelland home with a bunt, making it a 6-4 game.
“I don’t think we quit and did make it a little interesting in the third inning,” Valesko said. “It was a little bit of a kick in the stomach, though, when we couldn’t put up a 0 in the bottom half.”
The Redskins got all four runs back and one more with another five-run frame, this time in the bottom of the third. Colton Wietfeld scored on a fielding error with one out, before Tyler Smarrella and Speaker roped two-out, two-run doubles to increase the lead to 11-4.
“Offensively, we took advantage of their mistakes and got hits when we needed them,” coach Cottis said. “We’ve been seeing the ball a lot better recently. We’re going over the small things in batting practice, and they’re starting to put it together and buy into it.”
The Huskies scored two more times in the fourth on an error and Mitchell’s run-scoring fielder’s choice. After that, reliever Jacob Wright was solid the rest of the way.
Wright replaced Speaker with two outs in the third. He went the rest of the way, walking one and striking out a pair in the process.
“Speaker started off strong but kind of lost it there in the third. Jacob’s been coming in relief for us lately and is doing a great job,” coach Cottis said. “He kind of shut them down. He pounds the zone and lets our defense play the game. Luckily, we’ve been playing good defense lately.”
Cruz Capers started for the Huskies but only recorded two outs before being pulled in the first. The five runs he allowed came on two hits and five walks. Hunter Vancuren pitched the final 5 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out two in the process.
Despite Speaker’s rough third inning on the mound, he finished with a double, walk and four RBIs on offense. As coach Cottis would say, it was situational hitting at its finest.
“He has a good, relaxed approach. He knows when he’s down in the count that he’s going to use the whole field,” he said. “He’s going to try to hit it somewhere and be productive. He’s become a mature hitter, so he’ll do well at the next level.”
Coach Cottis pointed out that, during his team’s recent success on offense, moving Smarrella up to the No. 2 hole is one of the reasons why. Along with the two-run double, he was hit by a pitch and reached on an error.
“He’s really been catching fire lately,” coach Cottis said. “He’s the type of kid who’s scrappy, and he’s a heck of a football player. That’s the mentality he takes to the baseball field. He never gets cheated and plays well. He’s also played multiple positions and has done well with them.”
Clelland’s three-run triple put a big smile on Valesko’s face, as his Ohio State recruit is getting over an injury. Also getting back to form is center fielder Caden Dalton, who missed time with a broken hand. The Huskies lost Logan Tonkovich (an All-Ohio third baseman) in the season opener when he tore his ACL, so only two of their top three players are returning.
“I keep telling everybody we’re young,” Valesko said. “We now have two seniors in the lineup. We lost our 1-2-3 arms within the first day of the season. We have a lot of sophomores and some freshmen playing in our lineup. I told the guys I’m not worried about the record at this point. We just have to keep finding a way to get better and play our best come postseason. We’ll see what happens.
HARRISON CENTRAL: Travels to face Martins Ferry at noon today.
INDIAN CREEK: Heads to Carrollton on Friday.
Indian Creek 11, Harrison Central 6
Harrison 0-0-4 2-0-0 0 — 6-6-4
Creek 5-1-5 0-0-0 x — 11-8-2
HARRISON CENTRAL (5-7): Capers (lp, 2/3IP, 5R, 2H, 4BB, 0K), Vancuren (5 1/3IP, 6R, 6H, 2BB, 2K) and Co. Dalton.
INDIAN CREEK (7-5): Speaker (wp, 2 2/3IP, 4R, 3H, 5BB, 6K), Wright (4 1/3IP, 2R, 3H, 1BB, 2K) and Ko. Cottis.
TWO OR MORE HITS: Harrison Central (Clelland 3); Indian Creek (Kl. Cottis 2, Maurer 2). DOUBLES: Harrison Central none; Indian Creek 4 (Kl. Cottis, Smarrella, Speaker, Wietfeld). TRIPLES: Harrison Central 1 (Clelland); Indian Creek. HOME RUNS: none. RBIs: Harrison Central (Clelland 3, Mitchell 2); Indian Creek (Smarrella 2, Speaker 4, Ko. Cottis 2, Michalos).