Rex’s No-Hitter Propels Harrison Central Into D-III District Final
GNADENHUTTEN — There have been some fine pitching performances at Harrison Central in recent years, but none better than the one turned in by Huskies’ junior Tre Rex in Tuesday’s OHSAA Division III District Semifinal against Coshocton.
The slender lefty – known as T-Rex – was as dominant on the mound as the “king” of the dinosaurs roaming Jurassic Park as he tossed a no-hitter with a whopping 19 strikeouts to lead Harrison Central to a 2-0 victory and a spot in the district championship game against Ridgewood.
Rex, who improved his personal record to 7-1, struck out the side in five of the seven innings and had two Ks in the other two frames. He surrendered three walks (one intentional) and had only two balls put in play – a comebacker in the first and a routine fly to right field in the fifth.
Not surprisingly, coach Mike Valesko was effusive in his praise of his “ace”.
“We’ve seen some great pitching performances at Harrison Central in the last 10 years going back to Rasheed Mitchell in ’13 taking us to the ‘Final Four’ and Dustin Reddish and Austyn Porter to win the district in ’16,” he related, “but that’s the best I’ve seen. Only two balls put in play with 19 strikeouts…he was absolutely locked in.
“We talked about it back in February when we had a team meeting and we told them ‘when we need you the most, we need your best’,” he continued, “and we needed him today and he gave us his best.
“He had great stuff warming up,” added Valesko. “His fastball was really alive today and he’s been working on his off-speed stuff and got the curveball going later.”
Coshocton coach Nathan Prati also praised Rex’s effort.
“He threw all of his stuff for strikes,” he said. “There’s a reason he’s a first-team All-Ohio type with Division I prospects. He competes and never let us get comfortable with his breaking stuff.
“I would have liked to see us change our approach and shorten up our swings,” Prati added, “but these are the types of games you expect in the district tournament.”
Coshocton pitcher Hudson Wesney certainly deserved a better fate for his performance. The Redskin right-hander allowed just four hits, struck out 11 and did not issue a walk.
“Hudson matched him (Rex) pitch for pitch,” said Prati. “He got to showcase his stuff tonight, and I know he feels bad about the result but he should walk away feeling good about his performance because he was outstanding.”
“Hats off to their pitcher,” echoed Velasko. “He was pretty darn good on the mound, too.”
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third when Trace Rutter opened with a single to left; advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tucker Snyder and scored on a two-out bloop single to right-center by Treston Nemeth.
“The way things were going, we knew early on that one or two runs might be enough,” said Velasko, “so we tried to manufacture a run. It may not have showed in the box score, but I felt like our at-bats got better as the game went on.”
Harrison Central had a chance to add to its total in the fourth, but came up empty.
Caleb Blawut reached second on a throwing error and beat a throw to third on a sacrifice bunt by Cabot Arbaugh, but an attempted squeeze by Rex saw him cut down at the plate. Wesney then posted back-to-back Ks to get out of the inning.
The Huskies did get the insurance run in the sixth when Rex – who had doubled in the second inning – reached on a two-out error and scored on an RBI double to right by Johnny Vermillion.
Rutter was then hit by a pitch and Snyder singled to load the bases, but a fly out to center kept things close at 2-0 before Rex mowed down the Redskins with three Ks in the seventh to seal the deal.
The Huskies – who already have the Buckeye 8 crown and a runner-up finish in the OVAC Class 4A tournament to their credit – will carry a 20-8 record into Thursday’s district final against Ridgewood – a 3-0 winner against Martins Ferry in the other district semifinal – right back at the Indian Valley High diamond in Gnadenhutten.
Harrison Central will have payback on the mind as it was the Generals who KO’d the Huskies in the sectional final last year.
“I have so much respect for Chad,” he said, referring to Ridgewood coach Chad Lahna. “We’ve talked about it for 12 months now…what’s the growth of this team going to be? We played them in the sectional last year, and we just weren’t ready to play in that environment, and we’ll find out in 48 hours if we’re ready this time.”