STEUBENVILLE - Edison and Big Red delivered yet another outstanding high school baseball game Saturday, the Wildcats pulling out a tense 5-4 win to claim the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 4A championship.
The perennial powers both sent quality pitchers to the hill at chilly Vaccaro Field - Mark Smyth for Edison and JoJo Pierro for Big Red. The difference proved to be a bases-loaded bounding ball in the home half of the fourth inning.
Edison found itself trailing 4-2 after Big Red scored three times in the top of the frame. Things weren't looking good either as Pierro quickly retired the first two Wildcat hitters.
BASEBALL CHAMPS — The Edison baseball team poses with the OVAC Class 4A championship trophy after topping Big Red 5-4 at Vaccaro Field Saturday.
Koby Sronce drew a two-out walk and immediately stole second. He moved to third on Chad Wickham's single. If not for a diving stop by Bryan Pierro, Big Red's shortstop, Sronce would have scored on the Wickham hit.
Josh Pasek followed Wickham to the plate and delivered a RBI base hit. Greg Stagani worked JoJo Pierro for a free pass to fill the bases with Wildcats. Smyth then hit the bounding ball that resulted in a Big Red fielding miscue and allowed Pasek and Wickham to scamper home with what proved to be the winning runs.
Smyth dominated in the fifth and sixth innings and recorded a strikeout to start the seventh. He gave way to Stagani after Matt Petrella legged out an infield single. The fire-balling right hander whiffed the two batters he faced to record the save.
"Basically, as we were talking, two plays made the difference, one on our side and one on their side - both defensively," said Edison's Mike Collopy.
"Mark pitched an outstanding game. We put in a situation where he hadn't pitched for a while and he came out and pitched as well as he could under the circumstances. He battled. Then Greg came in and did the job when we needed him."
The other play Collopy mentioned also came in the fourth when Big Red scored three times.
JoJo Pierro drove a leadoff single to right and advanced when Pat Pizzoferrato was safe on Edison's lone defensive miscue error. Both advanced on a passed ball. Michael Camilletti walked to load the bases. JoJo Pierro touched the plate thanks to a wild pitch. Pizzoferrato scored when Ryan Vojvodich bounced one to third. Petrella's grounder to short plated Camilletti.
Big Red got the game's first run in the second. Pizzoferrato ripped a double to center. He scored on Vojvodich's fly to right.
Edison pushed two runs across in the third. Sronce walked and sprinted to third on a Wickham base knock. Sronce was cut down at the plate on Pasek's grounder back to JoJo Pierro. Stagani followed by lining a single to plate Wickham. Smyth walked before Alec Jones flew to center, scoring Pasek in the process.
The Wildcats appeared poised to score more but a diving catch in right by Big Red's Mason Heatherington ended the threat.
Smyth held Big Red to four hits during his time on the mound. He fanned four and walked three.
"We're pretty simple and maybe that's because of who their coach is," Collopy responded when asked to describe the importance of Saturday's win. "We looked at winning today and we don't look too far beyond today.
"Name it whatever you want to name it, but we took the approach that we were playing Big Red at 1:30 today at Vaccaro Field. We wanted to execute and play good baseball."
Wickham finished with three of Edison's six hits and Pasek added two.
"That's the way it goes, it's the game of baseball," Big Red's Fred Heatherington said. "When you don't make the plays and you get behind in the count, you're not going to win. They got some timely hits, good pitching and they won the game."
JoJo Pierro recorded three strikeouts and allowed five walks in suffering the tough pitching loss.
"JoJo battled, but he didn't get ahead in the count," Heatherington noted. "His curve ball wasn't working and you're not going to beat them with just a fastball. That's what we tried to do."
Both teams will return to action Monday. Edison, now 19-2, will visit East Liverpool. Big Red, 13-6, will travel to Toronto.
Cambridge pitcher Dillon Sonnafrank struck out eight of the first nine batters from Morgantown en route to the Bobcats' 9-6 victory at Vaccaro Field to win the Class 5A champiosnhip.
Cambridge scored in the second through fifth innings to take an 8-2 lead.
Morgantown battled back with four in the top of the sixth, thanks to a leadoff single by Tyler Bradford, followed by four Bobcats errors.
Sonnafrank finished with 11 strikeouts and six walks. He issued free passes to the first two batters of the seventh inning and was replaced by lefthander R.J. Endly, who fanned three in a row to end the game. Sonnafrank allowed four singles.
Cambridge singled twice in the second for two runs, three times in the third for two runs, three more times in the fourth for a run and twice in the fifth for three runs.
Morgantown's Albie Eddy took the loss. He fanned three and walked five.
Bellaire Big Reds struck out 11 times and managed five singles against Buckeye Trail southpaw Zach Roe in Saturday's 3A conference title game.
Still, John Patrone's ballclub returned home with the big trophy following a 7-0 blanking of the self-destructive Warriors at Vaccaro Field. Buckeye Trail committed 10 errors.
Bellaire has made steady progress during Patrone's four-season tenure, culminating with Saturday's achievement.
"Yes, we definitely set our goals high this season," the Reds' skipper confirmed. "We didn't hit particularly well today and have been inconsistent in that area at times. But we've won a few games with pitching and defense."
Saturday's victory was a dramatic case in point. Senior Nick McMahon permitted three hits in a solid route-going performance. The Reds' righthander struck out four and issued three walks.
"Nick's been coming on strong and he showed that today," Patrone advised. "I thought he really mixed his pitches well."
McMahon admitted the game plan was simple.
"Just throw strikes and let the guys behind me make plays," he smiled. "This feels good. It's been a while."
That, referring to the last time a Bellaire team celebrated an OVAC baseball crown.
"Not since 1993, we believe," Patrone said. "We've been building (for this) and today the kids got it done. This (trophy) is for them, our coaches and the entire school."
Edison 5, Big Red 4
Big Red 010 300 0 - 4 4 1
Edison 002 300 x - 5 6 1
BIG RED (13-6): J. Pierro (LP, 3K, 5BB) and Vojvodich; Petrella 2S; Pizzoferrato D; J. Pierro S; Vojvodich 2RBI.
EDISON (19-2): Smyth (WP, 4K, 3BB), Stagani (7, S, 2K) and Bertha; Wickham 3S; Pasek 2S, RBI; Stagani S, RBI; Jones RBI.
Cambridge 9, Morgantown 6
Morgantown000 204 0 - 6 4 4
Cambridge022 131 x - 9 13 5
MORGANTOWN: Eddy (LP, 3K, 5BB) and Leone; Eddy S; Miller S; Bradford S; Wisman S.
CAMBRIDGE: Sonnafrank (WP, 11K, 6BB), Endly (7, 3K, 0BB) and Rogers; Ford 3S; Roller S; Rogers S; Hardesty 2S; Francis 2S; Wilson S, D; Sonnafrank 2S.
Bellaire 7, Buckeye Trail 0
Bellaire 302 002 0 - 7 5 0
Buckeye Trail 000 000 0 - 0 3 10
BELLAIRE: McMahon and Back; Conroy S; West 2S; Ray S; Snell S.
BUCKEYE TRAIL: Z. Roe and Patterson; Z. Roe S; J. Roe S; Burkhart S.