STEUBENVILLE - Harrison Central baseball coach Justin Clifford knows rebuilding a program doesn't happen overnight or in one season.
However, his Huskies took a big step forward in 2012 despite Tuesday afternoon's dismal, 11-2, setback to Minerva in a Division II sectional contest at Vaccaro Field.
"We didn't want to end on a down note, but overall, this (season) was a step in the right direction," Clifford said. "It's a process. I told the guys (the process) might not come until my kids are playing, but we've got to continue to work every day and get better. You just don't say you're going win 25 games and go out and do it."
The Huskies, who have just three seniors, finished their campaign at 14-14, while Minerva will return to Vaccaro later this week to meet Cambridge in the sectional final.
It appeared at the outset as if it was going to be a pitcher's duel.
Huskies starter, and ace, Rashaen Mitchell limited the Lions to one hit and without a run and only an infield single in the first three innings.
However, when he started the fourth, Clifford noticed something different almost immediately.
"Rashaen didn't have his best staff, but give Minerva credit because they battled and made him throw a lot of pitches," Clifford said. "He just couldn't make that pitch to finish hitters off and they hit well with two strikes.
I don't think he was 100 percent, but in the fourth inning and after you could tell he wasn't throwing as well as he did early."
In the fourth, Chase Petri and Levi Marshall led off with a single and double, respectively. Two batters later, Tito Ramos brought in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly. Jansen Locke then drove in Marshall with a two-out hit.
Hitting with two hits became a theme for Minerva.
Mitchell sandwiched a walk between a pair of routine outs, but the next six Minerva hitters reached and they scored five times to blow the game open. Ramos delivered the big hit in the inning when he laced a single back through the box to bring in two runs. Locke followed with a RBI single, which chased Mitchell.
Minerva struck for a two-out run off of reliever Nick Pelegreen in the sixth and then answered Harrison's two runs with three more in the seventh.
Harrison Central's offense was stymied for four innings by winning pitcher Zack Wade, who was going on just two days rest. After fanning four and walking just one, Minerva brought on Ramos, who worked the final three innings for the save.
"We couldn't get anything going off their guy and he was going on two-days rest, so you have to tip your cap to them," Clifford said.
Ryan Rose brought home both Huskies' runs with a double to deep left. Harrison Central had just six hits in the game and struck out nine times in the game. Rose also had a single in the game, but no other player for Harrison had an extra base hit or a multi-hit game.