Huskies edge St. C in OVAC action behind Rex’s gem

DELIVERY — Harrison Central’s Tre Rex deals to the plate during Saturday’s OVAC semifinal against St. Clairsville. - Kim North

CADIZ – When two crafty lefties get together on the mound, don’t expect many runs.

Such was the case Saturday at sun-drenched Mazeroski Field as Harrison Central’s Tre Rex and St. Clairsville’s Hunter Hoffman toed the rubber in an epic Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 4A baseball tournament semifinal.

The second-seeded Huskies (10-3) rode the two-hit pitching of Rex and used Cabot Arbaugh’s RBI single for a 1-0 triumph over the No. 3 Red Devils. It was the second one-run decision for Harrison Central over their neighboring rivals in a week as it prevailed 9-8 last Saturday in an eight-inning regular season matchup.

“I haven’t pitched in almost two weeks. I’ve been battling some arm problems,” Rex, a transfer from Union Local, said. “But today I just came out looking to do what I usually do.”

Rex got in trouble immediately as he walked leadoff batter Braylen Blomquist on four pitches. Mason Myers lined back to Rex, but he threw the ball wildly to first attempting to double-up the runner as Blomquist scampered to second. Joey Balgo drew a full-count walk and Hoffman legged out a roller to the hole at short for an infield single that loaded the bases.

However, Rex fanned the next two batters – both looking – to escape unscathed.

“That gave me a boost of confidence,” he said of the back-to-back punchouts. “My curveball was really working today. It was my best pitch today. I was starting it low in the strike zone and they were swinging at it. It got the job done.”

Both head coaches praised Rex’s effort. He struck out 11 (five looking), walked seven and hit a pair of Red Devils in throwing 119 pitches (69 strikes).

“He was phenomenal today. That’s Tre Rex. He’s pretty darn good,” Harrison Central head coach Mike Valesko beamed. “He had some back spasms that affected his last outing, but he’s worked his way through it and he did the job today.

“We’ve kind of had this day circled on the calendar for a couple of week now thinking we might be here.”

Veteran St. Clairsville (5-5) head coach Tom Sliva lauded, not only Rex, but Hoffman, as well.

“We hit the ball very poorly today. First of all, though, our pitcher did a tremendous job as did theirs. There was a total of five hits in the game. Our guys have a lot of work to do at the plate. We’ve got a lot of growing up to do at the plate,” he said after counting up 11 runners left on base, with seven of those in scoring position. “We’ve got guys that are good in practice, but when it comes to games, they tighten up. They’ve got to understand that if you’re going to win big games, you’ve got to beat big-time pitchers. That was a big-time pitcher today.”

While Rex was holding the Red Devils in check, the Huskies got him the only run he would need in the bottom of the second. Kaden Jurosko drew a full-count walk leading off. After stealing second, he went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Rex. Arbaugh tried to bunt twice, but both times were unsuccessful. With the count 1-2, he singled softly to left to plate Jurosko.

“We asked him to bunt but he didn’t get them down, but credit to him,” Valesko noted. “We’ve had some good practices lately about doing whatever it takes to win a game, but when we got to that point, you had to do something to win the game. Today Cabot didn’t get down on himself by not getting two bunts down, but with two strikes he choked up on the bat and got enough of the pitch to send it into left field for a single,” Valesko recalled.

With the win, Harrison Central advances to the championship game next weekend in Richmond at Edison High School opposite top-seeded Cambridge, which rallied past No. 4 Indian Creek, 8-7. It will be Valesko’s third try at a title. The Huskies haven’t won an OVAC baseball title since 2013. It is one of four they possess as they went back-to-back in 2005 and 2006, and also won the 3A crown in 2000.

OVAC Class 4A Semifinal

(at Mazeroski Field, Cadiz)

Harrison Central 1, St. Clairsville 0

St. Clairsville 000 000 0 — 0 2 2

Harrison Central 010 000 x — 1 3 1

STC–Hoffman lp (5K, 1BB) and Bush

HC–Rex wp (11K, 7BB) and Nemeth; Arbaugh S, rbi


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