ZANESVILLE - Harrison Central's road to the Division II state baseball tournament has had many long and winding curves, and as many ups-and-downs as a rollercoaster at Kings Island.
Friday night's Region 7 championship game triumph over Waverly at Gant Municipal Stadium will no doubtedly go down in the Huskie annals as the BIGGEST win in school history.
It marks the first time that a Harrison Central team has qualified for a state tournament.
Trailing the state-ranked Tigers 7-1 in the mid-point of the contest, and their ace pitcher - Pierce Knisley - coming on in relief, things looked pretty bleak for the Harrison County nine.
However, like they have all season long, the Huskies did all the little things to slowly, but surely, creep back into the contest, which they eventually won when Waverly balked home the winning run in the bottom of the seventh for an 8-7 final.
"It's unbelievable," senior Nick Pelegreen said. "With the way this game went. We were down 7-1 and everyone thought we were out of it, but we battled back. That just shows how much pride we have.
"It almost makes it seem like it was meant to be. Like we were supposed to be in Columbus."
The Huskies' seniors had their fair share of blowouts there freshmen and sophomore seasons, something that hasn't been lost on this close five-member class.
"Our first two seasons were really tough times for us," Pelegreen added. "Just knowing how far we have come since then and how much we've worked for it. We had goals, but not this high. It's amazing to be here, but I can't wait to get to the state Final Four game."
Rashaen Mitchell echoed his classmates' thoughts.
"This means everything to me and my teammates," he offered. "It means that all of the hard work and the sacrifices that we made has paid off.
"We started out at the bottom as freshmen and sophomores and here were are at the top as seniors. I'm proud of everyone."
In addition to Pelegreen and Mitchell, the other three seniors are third baseman Drew Horn, left fielder Ryan Rose and designated hitter Rhett Kuryn.
Unlikliest of Heroes
After being pinch-hit for in the fifth inning, junior Nick Staten found himself leading off the Huskies' final at-bat.
"I didn't have a hit all day, so I just wanted to hit the ball ... get on base," the Huskies' catcher said. "Get on base anyway I could. I knew when I hit it that I hit it pretty good, but I didn't expect it to go that far."
When asked if the two-bagger was the biggest hit of his career, he optimistically offered, "so far!"
Unlikliest of Heroes II
How about freshman Dustin Redish?
Just a mere 15 years old, he handles pressure like a saavy veteran.
Forced to the mound in relief of Pelegreen in the third and the Huskies on the short end of a 5-1 score, Redish held the Tigers at bay until his teammates got hot with the bats.
"I don't really feel any pressure because this is the way I've been used all season," he related.
However, during the wild post-game celebration, he was caught up in the aura.
"This is amazing. It feels great. I don't think it's sunk in yet, but that's alright."
Fan Support No. 1
Harrison Central definitely had the major cheering section during both of its games at Gant Municipal Stadium in Zanesville.
The fans that made the trips, be it one or both, are to be commended for their enthusiasm and sportsmanship. They made a very good name for the people of Harrison County.
"These fans have been unbelievable," head coach Justin Clifford said. "They are amazing."
The Huskies were greeted with a huge parade when they returned to Cadiz.
One for the Thumb
When the Huskies take to the home field of the Columbus Clippers Thursday afternoon, they will be seeking a fifth tournament title this season.
They've already collected the OVAC Class 4A tournament title; the Division II sectional and district crowns, and now the coveted regional championship.
There's only one more remaining, and it's only two wins away.
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