COLUMBUS - Harrison Central's first trip to the state baseball tournament was a walk in the park, literally.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the walk led directly to a 11-1 setback to Plain City Jonathan Alder in a Division II semifinal at Huntington Park in the downtown Arena District.
A trio of Harrison Central hurlers combined for 10 base-on-balls, plus they hit a pair of Pioneers.
Harrison Central’s Nick Staten misses the tag at home plate, as a Jonathan Adler runner scores on Friday.
"You can't walk that many guys and expect to win," Harrison Central coach Justin Clifford said. "That's what we just talked about with the kids.
"We got ourselves behind the 8-ball a little bit by not throwing strikes," the second-year Huskies' skipper added. "It just wasn't Rashaen (Mitchell), it was everybody. That's the way the game goes."
After a scoreless first inning, the Pioneers (24-8) took advantage of Mitchell's wildness, combined with a tight strike zone, to push four runs across the plate with the benefit of only one base hit.
With one out, the senior southpaw walked designated hitter Connor Headings. After Headings was sacrificed to second by Bret Yutzy, Jon Peters was inserted as a pinch runner.
Trent Kaltenbach took a Mitchell offering through the right side of the infield as Peters scored easily with the first tally of the game.
That's when Mitchell's control suddenly went south. He walked the next five JA hitters as the count grew to 4-0. Clifford had seen enough and summoned freshman Dustin Redish to halt the rally. The 15-year-old did just that with a strikeout.
"I don't think it was so much nerves," Clifford said of the shaky start. "We just didn't get a pitch here, a pitch there. We were two pitches away from getting out of that inning, but instead, we give up four runs."
Mitchell had a hard time explaining what occurred during that frame.
"About the only thing I can say is that I couldn't buy a strike out there," the Huskies' ace said. "I was putting (the pitches) there, I just wasn't getting the calls. I probably could've put them better but I'm used to pitching on the corners.
"It wasn't my day, I guess."
Redish was touched up for a run in the fourth when winning pitcher Brad Miller smacked a double to the leftfield corner. After stealing third, Miller came home on a one-out suicide-squeeze bunt by Pete Whitmer.
Harrison Central threatened in the bottom of the fourth as Mitchell laced a one-out double down the leftfield line. Nick Pelegreen walked and Drew Horn was plunked with an 0-2 pitch that loaded the bases.
However, the home plate umpire ruled Horn didn't try to avoid being hit by the pitch, thus calling it ball one. Horn eventually struck out.
Casey Graber's two-run seeing-eye single up the middle greeted Pelegreen as the margin ballooned to 7-0.
The Huskies avoided being shutout with their lone run coming in the bottom of the fifth.
With one out, Austin Kowalski was hit-by-a-pitch, but was erased on a fielder's choice off the bat of Kalub Mitchell. Dalton Rutter rifled a single to right and Redish was plunked to load the bases. Rashaen Mitchell's opposite-field liner down the leftfield line was a mere inches foul, but he came right back with a grounder to the right side of the infield that plated younger brother, Kalub.
"Sure we're disappointed that we didn't win (Friday) and again (today)," Clifford said. "But when the kids look back on it 30 years from now, they'll appreciate it a little more.
"This is a huge step for our program," he continued. "No team in Harrison County has ever done this before in a team sport. Yes, they're hurting right now because they're competitors, and they should. They've got a lot to be proud of."