STEUBENVILLE - Edison and Big Red delivered yet another outstanding high school baseball game Saturday, the Wildcats pulling out a tense 5-4 victory to claim the OVAC 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 Wildcats hitters.
Edison’s Mark Smyth works to the plate against Steubenville on Saturday.
Then, Koby Sronce drew a 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 and delivered an RBI single. Greg Stagani worked a free pass to fill the bases. 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," Edison coach Mike Collopy said.
"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 and 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 victory. "We looked at winning (Saturday) and we don't look too far beyond (Saturday).
"Name it whatever you want to name it, but we took the approach that we were playing Big Red at 1:30 (Saturday) 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 curveball 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.