STEUBENVILLE - Saturday's Division II sectional co-championship game between Harrison Central and Carrollton just about had it all.
The 12-inning instant classic featured gutsy pitching performances from both staffs, timely hitting, stellar defensive plays, missed scoring opportunities (combined the teams stranded 36 base runners) and even a few controversial calls.
It also had a shining moment for Austin Kowalski.
The Huskies sophomore drove home Nick Staten with the winning run as Harrison Central nipped Carrollton 8-7 at Vacarro Field to earn the tournament crown. The victory sends Justin Clifford's now 20-6 club into Wednesday's district semifinal against Dover. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Vacarro.
"That's a sophomore coming through for us," Clifford said of Kowalski's key base knock. "I think he was down a little for not making a play in the field, but he more than made up for it at the plate (the Huskies second baseman finished with three singles and three RBI). What can I say about all of our guys?"
What proved to be the game-winning rally began when Staten drew a one-out walk off Carrollton's Jeremiah Lowery, who started the game, gave way to Tyler Krantz in the fourth and returned in the 10th. Rhett Kuryn followed by grounding a single to left. Staten was able to score from second on Kowalski's hit.
Rashaen Mitchell, the third Huskies pitcher, then slammed the door on the Warriors (16-10) in the bottom of the 12th. He did allow a leadoff work then fanned three straight to clinch the victory. During his stint on the mound, Rashaen Mitchell whiffed 10.
When asked about the lefty's stint on the mound, Clifford replied "Rashaen wanted the ball." Rashaen Mitchell went five innings in collecting the win against Buckeye Local on Thursday.
Nick Pelegreen started on the hill for Harrison, giving way to freshman Dustin Redish in the sixth. Pelegreen allowed four runs in the first then held Carrollton scoreless until the sixth. He recorded nine strikeouts and Redish mowed down five (meaning 24 of the 36 Warrior outs came via the K).
"That's a freshman coming in and we never hesitated to give him the chance," Clifford stated. "He has played a lot of baseball. We just feel confident with any of our guys."
Harrison scored in its first at bat, Rashaen Mitchell driving home Dalton Rutter, who led off with a single and advanced on Redish's sacrifice bunt.
Carrollton scored four in its half of the inning, Krantz getting a RBI single and Zach Brannick grounding a bases-loaded triple just inside the first base line.
The Huskies made it 4-2 in the second on Kalub Mitchell's sacrifice fly and grabbed a 5-4 lead in the third thanks to Kowalski's two-run single. Clifford's crew added a single tally in the fourth on Pelegreen's RBI.
Butch Wood's Warriors rallied for three in the sixth to go up 7-6. Krantz delivered another run producing hit to key the uprising. Harrison was able to manufacture a tally in the top of the seventh. Staten drew a free pass and freshman Bryson Porter was inserted as a pinch runner. He reached third on Kowalski's single to right center and scored on a wild pitch.
"That's three games in a row that we got down early," Clifford noted. "Our kids have been there and done that, they never panic. That's a tribute to our seniors. We were down one in the seventh and found a way to score. I'm so proud of all our guys."
Carrollton loaded the bases with one out in its half of the seventh (the Warriors also left the sacks jammed in the sixth) but Redish retired two straight to force extra frames.
The Huskies returned the favor by leaving the bases juiced in the eighth and ninth before stranding a pair in the 10th. Carrollton's best scoring threat came in the ninth. Zach Fry walked to start the frame, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a pass ball. He attempted to score on another pass ball. Staten, Harrison's catcher, recovered and flipped the ball to Rashaen Mitchell for the tag at the plate.
"He (Staten) was getting beat up back there the whole game," Clifford added. "He chased after that ball and it was bang, bang at the plate. We got the call. It was just a great effort.
"Everyone made play after play. Nobody lost it, we just happen to win it. We left 19 games on base and they had a like number. Both teams played hard and gave so much effort."
As noted, Lowery drew the pitching start for Carrollton just three days after going the distance for a win against Indian Creek. He gave way to Krantz in the fourth. Fry faced two batters in the 10th before Lowery was back on the bump. Krantz turned in an outstanding performance, going five and a third innings, scattering four hits, allowing one run and fanning six.
Andrew Collins and Krantz both had two of Carrollton's eight total hits.
Rashaen Mitchell paced Harrison's 15-hit attack with five singles. Kowalski added three. Rutter, Kuryn and Pelegreen had two each.
"We have some goals and this (winning the sectional) is one of them, bringing one back to Harrison County," Clifford said. "We felt we were due. Again, that's a tribute to our players.
"We don't get rattled when we go places. We had guys playing different positions today. There are so many plays you can go back to in that game. Drew Horn, for example, taking one off his chest and still being able to throw their guy out in the seventh."