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Big Red falls in 10-inning thriller

HITTING — Steubenville’s Quinn McCoy bats against St. Clairsville on Tuesday. -- Seth Staskey

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — St. Clairsville and Steubenville have developed a thing for the dramatic when they get together on the baseball field.

Tuesday’s regular-season encounter at sun-drenched Memorial Park was no different. 

And, for the second straight meeting between the two tradition-laden clubs, the game ended with the Red Devils in a celebratory dogpile.

While the stakes weren’t quite as high as the early 2019 regional final, St. Clairsville still celebrated a dramatic,10-inning 6-5 victory.

“We’re happy because every year Steubenville is so strong and so well coached,” Red Devil head coach Tom Sliva said. “We have a long list of things that we have to learn from the game that we need to do offensively and defensively, but when you pull out (a victory), the list is still there, but it doesn’t hurt as bad.”

Thanks to an unearned run in the top of the 10th, the Red Devils found themselves looking up at 5-4 deficit.

Luke Jozwiak, who had four hits and was on base a fifth time with an intentional pass, opened the inning by ripping a double down the right-field line. Drew Sefsick followed with an infield single, putting runners at the corners. Big Red pitcher J.T. Thompson, who came on in relief in the ninth for Cooper Blackburn, induced a ground out to short and a routine pop up on the infield for the second out.

Freshman Braylen Blomquist, who had been outstanding in the field at shortstop, worked the count before lifting a single into right field to tie the game.

Senior Tyler Tonkovich, who had tripled and scored to knot the game at four in fifth, roped a ball down the first base line, which Big Red was unable to field cleanly. It allowed Tonkovich to beat the play and Sefsick to race home, setting off the wild celebration.

“Drew fought and put it in play to get on, but you can’t say enough about Jozwiak getting on base four times,” Sliva said. “There is a long list of things we’re not doing at the plate, and we need to continue to work on them. But, when you win, those things still exist.”

Big Red had several chances to get to St. C. Starter Robby Kain, who threw well in five innings of work. Steubenville scored twice in the second and had the bases loaded but bounced into a 6-4-3 double play to end the rally. 

They also had three hits in the fifth but came away with just one run. They also stranded a runner at third base in each the sixth and seventh. Even in the 10th, when they did push across a run, they had a runner get tagged out in a run down between third and home.

“It’s as simply as they made more plays than we did,” Steubenville head coach Fred Heatherington said. “The pitchers did a great job. The hitters did a great job, and both teams made their errors, but we made ours at the wrong time. Every time we play each other, it’s a battle, and that’s going to continue to be that way.”

St. Clairsville received strong work out of the bullpen from senior Will Balgo, who was on the mound for the first time in basically two years. He last worked in April 2019 in a game at Canton South. He showed no signs of rust, mixing pitches, en route to five strikeouts and the eventual win.

Both teams swung the bats well. Steubenville pounded out 13 hits, including at least one from every spot in the order. The Red Devils were charted for 16 base knocks. 

Along with Jozwiak and Tonkovich’s production, junior Logan Shields had three hits and a RBI from the nine spot. Blomquist had an additional single as well.

Steubenville was led offensively by Kye Fleming, who had two singles and a like number of RBI. Blackburn had a pair of base hits. Thompson had two singles, and Casen Sutton had a double and a single.

St. Clairsville 6, Steubenville 5 (10 innings)

Steubenville  0-1-0 2-1-0 0-0-0 1 — 5 13 3

St. Clairsville 0-2-1 0-1-0 0-0-0 2 — 6 16 5

STEUBENVILLE: Blackburn (3K, 1BB), Thompson lp (9) (0K, 0BB) and Smith. Thompson 2S; Sutton D, S; Fleming 2S, 2rbi; Blackburn 2S; Gresco S, rbi; Edwards S, rbi.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE: Cain (3K, 1BB), Balgo wp (6) (5K, 0BB) and Starks. Starks S, rbi; Blomquist 2S, 2rbi; Tonkovich T, S, rbi; Balgo, S, rbi; Cook 2S; Jozwiak 2D, 2S; Shields 3S, rbi.

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