There’s nothing like postseason baseball, even if Harrison Central’s Mike Valesko and Martins Ferry’s Anthony Reasbeck disagree.
Example: Wednesday’s Division III sectional co-final at Mazeroski Field.
In the bottom of the seventh, Jace Madzia singled into left with the bases loaded to bring home Kayden Dunkle and send Harrison Central to next week’s district tournament with a 4-3 win.
“This was one of the better games I’ve been a part of,” Valesko added, relieved. It was a wonderful game, and I’m glad our kids won.
Harrison Central led 3-2 after scoring two in the sixth. Kaden Jurosko, who had drawn a bases-loaded walk in the second to score the game’s first run, singled to right to score freshman Braden Cook and classmate Chaz Culbertson, who had replaced Cabot Arbaugh.
“We told the kids we didn’t care how it happened, just go find a way to win,” Valesko said. “We won a one-run game against Ridgewood (on Monday) and then (Wednesday) and we kept telling our guys that our schedule would pay off.
We just wanted to retain our confidence and keep playing, and I felt like this was one of those games where we didn’t lose our confidence because we understood what we’ve gone through over the previous couple of months.”
12-11 Purple Riders didn’t go quietly.
Riders starter Ayden Ludolph started the sixth with a single.
After a strikeout, sophomore Alex Reese walked two to conclude senior Treston Nemeth’s excellent inning.
Freshman catcher Cy Booth knotted the game by reaching on a throwing error that took the Huskies first baseman off the base against Madzia, who was summoned from the bench.
Reese reached second on a wild pitch and third on a Booth ground ball.
Leyland Lopez caught Luca Shane’s fly ball to right field. He struck catcher Anthony Pelegreen to finish Reese’s inning.
For Lopez. His game’s second web gem. The sixth ended with a diving grab.
“Everyone helped win this game,” Valesko remarked. “Leyland is a kid we DH for, and a lot of kids would pout today because they’re not hitting, but he comes locked in and ready to go. He made two incredible moves that saved and perhaps won us the game.”
The Ferry skipper, Reasbeck, praised Harrison Central and his own team, who played without injured senior shortstop Conner Probst, for battling and giving their best.
“We replaced a lot of guys and here we were on the brink of heading back to the district tournament and having a good chance of winning,” Reasbeck said. I can’t ask for more from them. Despite not winning any prizes, this wasn’t an awful year. I think we’ll be tough to beat next year with our returning players.”
Madzia, who won, pitched two thirds of an inning. He has seven frames this season. Nemeth, who singled Dunkle to third in the sixth, struck out 11 batters.
Ludolph, too, was brave. He pitched out of jams all day despite command difficulties that caused six walks. Nine strikeouts, three hits.
The Huskies face Buckeye Trail in a Division III district semifinal. Don Coss Field in Cambridge hosts the game.