The Warren shortstop had a big game in the 2-1 Division I contest.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
WARREN -- Sean Lucas was wearing two things on Wednesday: lots of mud and a big grin.
The Warren Harding shortstop had two hits, scored a run, drove in another and made a game-saving catch in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Raiders beat Howland 2-1 in a rain-soaked Division I sectional tournament opener at Harding High.
The Raiders advanced to play at Boardman next Tuesday in a sectional final.
"I wanted the ball; I wanted to make the play," Lucas said of the catch. "I ran back on the ball and they teach you to keep your head down, but I noticed I overran the ball and I had to come back for it.
"I knew I had to make the play. If I don't, that's the game."
Steve Hudson and Vasili Pahoulis each walked to open the Tigers' seventh. Nick Pompeo followed with a sacrifice bunt and Ryan Dillon hit a pop-up to shallow left. Lucas ran back, swerved a little and caught the ball just before hitting the ground.
Sam Mann struck out looking to end the game.
"We had our number four and five hitters up [after the bunt] and we thought we'd at least get a fly ball," said Howland coach Chuck Potashnik. "But they have a lot of pressure on them. We hit the ball well, but it seemed like they were right at people."
Tyson Rowland started for Harding (11-15) and pitched five shutout innings, giving up four hits, striking out two and walking one.
Rowland has pitched in rain before, but nothing like Wednesday's weather.
"It was hard," Rowland said. "The ball kept getting wet and slipping out of my hands. I pitched three days ago, but I felt pretty good. I just stayed with my fastball."
Mike Hanck, Harding's only senior, pitched the final two innings, giving up an unearned run. The Raiders avenged an earlier 14-10 loss to Howland.
"I've never played in weather like that," said Harding's Joe Smarrello. "We've had some tough losses this year, but we've continued to play. We put the ball in the hands of our key guys and things went our way."
Pahoulis pitched well
The loss overshadowed a superb outing by Pahoulis (1-2), who gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits, striking out 11 and walking three. The damage came in the second inning, when Harding's Nate McCloud singled and scored and Lucas followed with an RBI single and later scored on a single by Thaddeus Walker.
"He threw pretty hard," said Lucas. "He's a good pitcher. I just stayed back on his fastball and adjusted to his curveball. He jammed me inside, so I just blooped the ball over the infield."
Pahoulis also had two hits and Justin Byler added two hits and an RBI. The Tigers (10-7) stranded 12 runners.