TORONTO - There are tough losses in sports and then there's what Martins Ferry experienced Friday night.
Playing in the school's first OVAC Championship Game since winning the crown in 2002, the Riders ad top-seeded Steubenville right where they wanted it with a 5-2 lead entering the sixth inning.
However, having been there and done that, Big Red responded to knot the game in the bottom of the sixth and eventually pushed a run across with two outs in the ninth to claim the school's 20th conference title and first since 2011 by a 6-5 count.
Steubenville lefty Anthony Zorne struck out 17 in a nine-inning, complete-game effort.
"Our kids play the game," said Steubenville coach Fred Heatherington, who notched victory No. 500 in his illustrious career on Thursday. "They know what they're doing, and we let them play."
Hence, why Big Red (16-4) never flinched and took Ferry's best shot.
"It's a shame," Ferry coach Anthony Reasbeck said. "It's a shame to play as hard we did and not get the outcome you deserve. It's a just a shame, and we'll leave it at that. This has been a goal for four years, and it's a shame we had it taken away from us like that."
The Purple Riders didn't get a lot of offense going against Steubenville sophomore Anthony Zorne. The crafty lefty won't wow anyone who looks at a radar gun, but his stuff was effective, especially his breaking ball. He sat down 17 Riders by virtue of the strikeout.
With his pitch count climbing, Heatherington didn't even debate going to his bullpen.
"We would have lifted him after the 10th (because of pitching rules)," Heatherington said. "We don't worry about pitch counts. We talk to our pitchers, and if they say they're OK, they keep going."
Evidently, Zorne told Heatherington what he wanted to hear and kept plowing along. Outside of the two innings when Ferry scored, he limited the Riders to two hits during the remainder of the game.
"I had a feeling that if we could score six runs, we'd be celebrating," Reasbeck said. "We scored five and they scored six, so I guess I was right. Zorne was outstanding for them. I am glad they're moving (up) to 5A because he's good and they're a great program."
Ferry (11-8) got two runners aboard in both the eighth and ninth innings. But, Zorne buckled down and a routine fly out to right and back-to-back strikeouts to end the rally.
Designated hitter Justin Corsi led off the ninth with a single. He was sacrificed to second by Kasey Peterson. Lucas Herrington appeared to have connected on the game-winning hit, but Riders second baseman Brenden Baire made a tough play to smother the ball and throw the runner out at first.
Reasbeck elected to intentionally walk Bryan Pierro, who had been a thorn in Ferry's side with two hits, two RBI and a run scored.
A couple of pitches later, Seth Scott's offering squirted past the catcher and Corsi broke for home immediately. The throw back to the pitcher wasn't handled and Big Red celebrated.
"We expected the tooth-and-nail battle," Reasbeck said. "I love the communities of Martins Ferry and Steubenville. Whenever they play each other in anything, it's this kind of game. Freddy is the best, and he knows he's the best."
In the sixth inning, Pierro drove in a run on a single. He later scored on a single by Niko Petrides. Dimitri Collaros, who was at the plate when the game-winning run scored, scored the tying run on a heads-up base-running play.
Ferry attempted a pick-off play and Collaros raced home.
"We walked the next guy anyway, so he would have scored regardless," Reasbeck said. "We got some unfortunate breaks. You can't get (all the breaks), I guess."
The Riders offense received a lift from Ethan Baire. He had a single, double and drove in three runs. Robert Vargo drove in a run on a fielder's choice. Jeremy Plants scored a run on the lone Big Red error of the game. T.J. Jacob also had a double and a single.