Harrison Central Victorious Via Balk
ZANESVILLE – Do you believe in miracles?
If you’re connected to the Harrison Central baseball program, you might want to start.
The ‘Cinderella’ Huskies (23-6) are headed to the Division II Final Four, courtesy of, all things, a balk-off.
Waverly reliever Adam Tiu balked home pinch-runner Ryan Rose with the winning run as Harrison Central captured the Region 7 championship, 8-7, in dramatic fashion at Gant Municipal Stadium.
The come-from-behind victory propels the Blue-and-White to Huntington Park in Columbus on Thursday at 4 p.m. in state semifinal action. The opponent will be either Plain City Jonathan Alder (22-8) or Tipp City Tippecanoe (28-4). They meet today at 7 p.m. in Xenia.
“I tell you what. These kids never quit. They battle,” Huskies second-year coach Justin Clifford said. “We were down 7-1 and (Waverly) bring in their ace. We just battled, battled and battled.
“I’m at a loss for words right now. This is amazing!”
On the short end of a 7-6 score and down to their last three outs, the Huskies used a lead-off double to the fence in left by junior catcher Nick Staten. Senior Rhett Kuryn quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole, but didn’t panic. Instead, he lined the next offering from Pierce Knisley to the gap in left-center as Staten scored to tie the game.
“I was just sitting back waiting on a fastball,” Kuryn said.. “That’s the biggest hit of my career.”
Rose took over for Kuryn at second and went to third on Austin Kowalski’s single to right.
After a pitching change, Tiu, before even delivering a pitch to the plate, faked a throw to first without stepping off the rubber that resulted in the very strange ending.
“It shocked me a little bit,” admitted Clifford, who seemed to call the balk before the home plate umpire made his final gesture. “You want to feel sorry for the kid, but we’ll take it, I guess.”
Thanks to some sloppy play by Harrison Central (four errors), the Tigers (23-8) broke out to a 3-0 lead before the Huskies even came to bat. The margin eventually ballooned to 7-1 after 3 innings before Harrison Central used some small-ball to plate a run in the bottom of the fourth, making it 7-2.
Freshman Dustin Redish, who plays a lot older than his age of 15, hit a single to center leading off the fifth. Rashaen Mitchell, the Huskies’ do-everything, legged out an infield single to the right side. With one out, Drew Horn drilled a shot to the hole at short that was thrown wildly to first as Redish scored to cut the deficit to 7-3.
Pinch-hitter Giovanni Rocchi, who hadn’t had 10 at-bats all season, then hit one to third that was kicked around as Mitchell crossed to make it 7-4.
With the momentum still on its side, Harrison Central fed off of it. Kalub Mitchell, the No. 9 hitter, ignited a two-run sixth that closed the gap to 7-6 with a leadoff single to right. He was promptly sacrificed to second by Dalton Rutter. Redish beat out an infield single to keep the rally going, and Rashaen Mitchell’s seeing-eye base hit through the right side drove in his younger brother. Mitchell then stole second with two outs. Horn’s single up the middle plated Redish for a 7-6 reading, but Mitchell was thrown out at the plate on a rifle by Corey Johnson, who started on the hill for the Tigers.
Waverly got the leadoff batter on base via a walk, and a pinch-runner was inserted. A sacrifice bunt attempt was popped up to the charging Horn at third, who quickly pegged a strike to Nick Pelegreen at first to complete the Huskies’ second twin killing of the game. Mitchell then fanned the next hitter to set the stage for another cardiac comeback.