STEUBENVILLE - They say it's hard to beat a team three times. What Edison found out against Steubenville, who it beat three times previously, Saturday at Vaccaro Field in the Ohio Division II sectional final, is that it is close to impossible to beat a team four times.
Close to, but not actually impossible.
The Wildcats received outstanding performances from four different hurlers and banged out six runs on 12 hits, but it wasn't until Chad Wickham induced Big Red's Lucky McClurg to ground out to third baseman Mark Smyth with runners on second and third in the bottom of the 15th inning that Edison was able to secure the 6-4 victory and the sectional crown.
''Whether they beat us three times or we beat them three times they're a heckuva team and a heckuva program,'' Edison coach Mike Collopy said. ''I have the utmost respect for Coach (Fred) Heatherington. To be honest with you, we didn't expect anything less. It's always a battle. Their kids showed heart. Our kids showed heart.
''It's just a matter of us being able to take advantage of a couple of things in the 15th inning.''
Edison received the combined efforts of Nolan Marcus, Mark Smyth, Greg Stagani, and Wickham on the hill. Marcus was the starter, going three and giving up two runs. Smyth, fighting an injury, went 4.2 while striking out five and and surrendering no runs. Stagani, who went seven innings Thursday in a 3-1 victory against Buckeye Local, went 2.2, striking out seven and giving up no runs as well. Wickham was credited with a victory, going five innings, striking out three and giving up two runs.
''Mark Smyth was a warrior,'' Collopy said. ''I don't think anyone knows what he's been through the last week. He came in at a tough spot. The game was kind of teetering a little bit and he came in and did a heckuva job. He had a big hit a couple different times.
''Our other pitchers were tough as well. Wick came in and stepped up. We threw the kitchen sink at them.''
Big Red didn't exactly see poor efforts on the hill in defeat. Starting pitcher JoJo Pierro was an iron man going 10 innings, striking out six and surrendering two runs. Justin Corsi, who was saddled with the loss, struck out four in five innings.
''Both our pitchers and all their pitchers played well,'' Heatherington said. ''It was a great game. We wish them well in the district, but I feel bad for our kids. Their kids played hard, our kids played hard, but I'm partial to our kids.
''Our two pitchers pitched their butts off, our defense played great, we just made some baserunning mistakes and it all came down to listening.''
Big Red struck first in the second inning. Michael Camilletti led off by drawing a walk followed by a Ryan Vojvodich single. Matt Petrella then smacked a single that scored Camilletti and put Vojvodich on third. The next batter, John Linn, grounded into a double play, but Vojvodich was able to cross for the 2-0 Big Red lead.
In the top of the fourth Edison got one of those runs back. Koby Sronce picked up a one-out single and took second on a passed ball, then saw there was a delay in the Big Red catcher picking up the ball and hustled his way to third. The throw to third was close, but Sronce just beat the tag. Wickham pushed him home on a groundout to short making the score 2-1.
The game was tied up by the Wildcats one inning later. Phil Hilt drew a one-out walk and Marcus pushed him around to third with a single. Warren Rawlings then brought Hilt home with a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-2.
Fast forward through 10 innings, some missed opportunities with runners in scoring position by both teams, a couple of baserunning mistakes, some strong pitching, and no runs scored to the top of the 14th where things got a little crazy.
''Our team played hard,'' Heatherington said. ''I couldn't ask more from our team than how hard we played physically. We gave the best effort we could give. Mentally we weren't there.
''We had a chance to win the game four or five times and we didn't because we don't listen. Our season comes down to one word - listening.
''That's the way it's been all year.''
Both team's endurance was tested through the marathon of a game as Edison stepped to bat. With two outs, Josh Pasek earned a free pass and then took second on a passed ball, leading to an intentional walk of Stagani. Smyth then came through in the clutch with a two-out, RBI single to score Pasek and give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead heading into the bottom of the 14th.
Big Red answered right back with a little two-out magic of their own. Pierro picked up a single, stole second, and then took third on a wild pitch. Pat Pizzoferrato followed Pierro's lead and crushed a shot to center for a double to extend the game another inning with the score tied at 3-3.
''Big Red showed a tremendous amount of desire and heart,'' Collopy said. ''Not that anyone doesn't know that. It was just a heckuva game. It's a shame one team had to lose.''
In the top of the 15th, Hilt opened things up with a single. With one out Rawlings drew a walk and Sronce reached on an error to load the bases. Wickham then drew a walk to score Hilt and Pasek singled to score Rawlings and Sronce for what appeared to be a secure 6-3 Edison lead.
Big Red fought right back with back-to-back singles by Vojvodich and Petrella. Linn then grounded into a fielder's choice that forced Petrella out at second, but left runners at first and third with one out. No. 9 hitter Evan Westlake came up next and smashed a Wickham delivery off the left-field fence for a double that scored Vojvodich and put Linn on third. Wickham stayed calm, struck out the next batter, and then forced the game-ending McClurg groundout to secure a date with Dover at 5 on Tuesday at River View High School.