Big Red rolls to district title
Thompson’s complete game shutout advances Steubenville to regionals
CADIZ — When the stakes are the highest, a coach needs his leaders to step up.
One of veteran Big Red coach Fred Heatherington’s seniors did just that in Wednesday Division II East 2 District Championship at Mazeroski Field.
Malone University commit J.T. Thompson turned in perhaps his best pitching performance to date by firing a complete game, four-hit shutout while finishing with two hits at the plate, including a key, two-run double in a 7-0 victory over Meadowbrook.
And, he did it just before he and two classmates who took part in the victory — Kye Fleming and J.D. Ellis — walked across the stage during Steubenville High School’s commencement on Wednesday night.
“We expect our seniors to step up all year, seniors get a lot of pressure on them,” Heatherington said. “When you’re playing with sophomores and juniors, you’ve got to be a leader and our three seniors have done a great job of that.
“It’s big for this group to win a district title after the stuff that we’ve been through this year,” Heatherington said. “Our kids stayed together.
“Our kids deserve everything they got (Wednesday).”
In three tournament games, junior ace Cooper Blackburn tossing gems in the first two, Big Red has allowed just one unearned run while out-scoring opponents 14-1.
“That’s one of our keys, dominant pitching,” Heatherington said. “Timely hitting and defense (are the others), and we’ve done all three since we’ve been in the tournament, so we just have to hope it continues.
“We have finally been able to get on the field and practice. The weather kept us off the field (earlier this season) and when we had chances to get on the field, we couldn’t. You need practice, and we’ve finally got some practice and it shows.”
With the win, Steubenville, who wins the district as the No. 7 seed, advances to next week’s Region 7 Tournament where it will face New Philadelphia, the winner of the East 1 District title, 2-1, over John Glenn on Wednesday.
Meadowbrook, which was the No. 8 seed, left the bases loaded in the second inning and left four men on total in the first two innings while the game was scoreless before watching Big Red get its bats going in the third.
“We didn’t get too many guys on base, but when we did, we didn’t execute,” Colts head coach Sam Fondriest said. “Executing in the first two tournament games is what got us here, unfortunately we just fell short and ran out of gas (Wednesday).
“Steubenville took advantage (of mistakes), that’s why good teams make it to this point. That is why Steubenville makes it to this point and beyond almost every year, because they execute when it matters. Hats off to them.”
After Thompson got out of the jam, he held the Colts (16-9) to just one hit — a Josh Hupp double in the seventh — the rest of the way.
In the bottom of the third, Aydan Manning got Steubenville on the board with an RBI fielder’s choice, then, after a Blackburn double and Hakim Edwards was intentionally walked to load the bases, another of Heatherington’s three seniors made it 2-0 when Fleming, the DH, drew an RBI walk.
Ellis later had a single and scored to give contributions from all three grads.
An inning later, Steubenville added some insurance with a two-out, two-run single by Blackburn to make it 4-0.
In the fifth, Big Red tacked on two more to take full control.
Catcher Zach Smith plated a run with a single, then Thompson helped his own cause with his two-run double. Another potential Big Red run was cut down at the plate in the inning.
Big Red drew eight walks in the game without being struck out.
The Region 7 semifinal takes place at 5 p.m. next Thursday at Indian Valley High School in Gnadenhutten.
OHSAA Division II
East 2 District Championship
At Mazeroski Field
No. 7 Big Red 7, No. 8 Meadowbrook 0
Meadowbrook 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 – 0 4 0
Big Red 0-0-2 2-3-0 x – 7 12 1
MEADOWBROOK (16-9): McManaway (LP, 4IP, 4R, 4ER, 5H, 0K, 7BB), Hupp (3IP, 3R, 3ER, 7H, 0K, 1BB) and Launder. McManaway S; St, Clair S; Stahl S; Hupp D.
BIG RED (16-11): Thompson (WP, CG, 0R, 4H, 6K, 2BB) and Smith. Smith 2S, RBI; Thompson S, D, 2RBI; Manning RBI; Blackburn D, 2S, 2RBI; Edwards S; Fleming RBI; Reese S; Ellis S; Sewell 2S.