The season came to an abrupt ending last year for the Logan High School baseball team as the Wildcats were upset 3-1 at South Charleston in the Class AAA sectional championship game.
It was the last game for Logan’s seven seniors and marked the career end for longtime LHS pitching coach and assistant Jim Willis Jr., who was retiring.
The Wildcats finished 21-7 and saw their string of 13 straight sectional championships come to a halt.
This spring marks a new beginning for the Logan baseball program.
With plenty of talent back from last year’s team, the Wildcats will once again be a force to be reckoned with this season.
However, Logan’s post-season prospects have gotten much tougher as the Wildcats have been moved to Class AAA Region 4 from the third region.
That means a new and tougher sectional as Logan is set to face off with Class AAA powerhouse Nitro, last year’s state runner-up, and also St. Albans — a team the Wildcats used to be sectional opponents with in the early 2000s.
Logan’s new regional teams include Winfield, Point Pleasant, Hurricane, Lincoln County, Cabell Midland, Huntington and Spring Valley, so the road to Charleston and the state tournament will be that much more difficult.
The Wildcats will also have to find replacements for outgoing seniors Matthew Greene, twin brothers Alex and Adam Mareske, Justin Oney, Codie Doss, Cody Frye and Andrew Staton.
Last year, starting centerfielder Greene hit a hefty .436 with 24 RBI, 34 hits, three doubles and three triples.
Alex Mareske was last year’s top hitter as he batted .442 with three homers and 26 RBI to go along with five doubles and two triples. On the mound, he was 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA and three saves.
Adam Mareske hit .369 in his final year with the Cats in 2012 with 24 hits and four RBI.
Oney, who now plays for WVU Tech, hit .343 last year but will be missed most on the mound where he was Logan’s closer last year with a team-high six saves. He was 0-1 last year with a 3.29 ERA in 17 innings pitched.
Those players will have tough shoes to fill, but luckily, the cupboard is not bare for the Wildcats this spring.
The poor March weather, however has not been very conducive for preseason baseball practices.
“The first day was beautiful,” Logan coach Roger Gertz said. “But it went downhill from there. We’ve been out on our field only about four times and played a couple of intersquad scrimmages where we could see some live pitching. We’ve had a few decent days where we could practice outside. We’ve hit the ball pretty good which is a good sign.”
Logan has a blend of veterans and newcomers who are very to step in and play. Logan, the baseball factory that it has been over the years, always seems to have players ready to go.
One other plus for the Wildcats this season is their versatility as several players can play several different positions depending on the pitching rotation and the defensive scheme.
Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers legendary manager Sparky Anderson once joked that he liked to put his lineups in gravel rather than stone so he could move it around if needed. That’s what Coach Gertz plans on doing this spring.
“We’ve got some versatility and we’ve got some new faces,” Gertz said. “We lost a lot of seniors, though. We’re no exception to that. Everyone loses seniors and you have to have players ready to step up. We’ve got some good, young kids and I think they will step into their new roles.”
Logan has back sophomore shortstop/pitcher Z. Minnick, one of the best young baseball prospects around. Minnick had an outstanding freshman season for the Wildcats last year as he hit .375 with one home run and 22 RBI to go along with his three doubles, three triples and 30 base hits — second-best on the squad.
Minnick can also bring it on the mound. In 2012, he was 5-1 with a 4.29 ERA, pitching 32.2 innings with 37 strikeouts and 25 walks.
“He’s throwing the ball well and has got an exceptional arm,” Gertz said of Minnick. “We’re expecting a lot of things out of him. He’s a good catcher, too, and that’s probably where he will end up later on but it’s just so difficult to catch and to pitch. He’ll also play some short and some third. We have the luxury of versatility.”
Senior catcher Benji Adkins, who hit .354 last season with one homer, 21 RBI, seven doubles and two triples, also returns. Adkins may also pitch some for the Cats.
“He did a tremendous job for us last year and hit the ball real well,” Gertz said of Adkins. “Benji is one of the hardest workers that we’ve ever had here. Towards the latter part of the year last year, he went into a little bit of a slump but against South Charleston in the last game he had three hits. Benji is also going to pitch some for us this year. We’re working with his slider. He has a really good arm, maybe the second strongest on the team. Z probably has the strongest but Benji is right there.”
Another key pitcher for the Wildcats this season will be junior right-hander Troy Burgess, who was 2-0 in 10.2 innings pitched last season with 13 strikeouts and a 0.66 ERA.
“Troy pitched very well for us last season,” Gertz said. “He started out playing JV ball and kept getting better. The last eight or nine games he really did a good job for us. He worked really hard in the off-season.”
Senior right-hander Johnny Morrison will also be counted on to carry a bulk of the load on the hill. Last year, Morrison was 2-0 with a 4.59 ERA as he fanned 15 in 10.2 innings of work.
“Johnny has tremendous stuff,” Gertz said. “He’s got good velocity and has an outstanding curveball. At times, his control is a problem but at times it clicks. He has tremendous ability and talent. We’re looking for him to be right in our top two or three in our rotation.”
Trace Butcher, a junior, is another option for Logan on the mound. He saw two innings of work at the varsity level in 2012.
“He’s got nice movement on the ball,” Gertz said of Butcher. “We’ll start him out in the JV program as the pitching goes. Hitting-wise he’s one of our best so we will have to find a place for him. He had a motorcycle accident last year right at the end of the baseball season and hurt his knee real bad. He’s still not real strong but I think he will do a good job for us.”
Also returning for Logan is starting second baseman Trent Dalton, who batted .271 last year with 11 RBI, three doubles and five stolen bases. Dalton could also see some mound time.
“We’ve been working with him throwing some. His arm has improved,” Gertz said of Dalton. “He’s around the plate and he’s not going to beat himself. Trent will have to throw some for us.”
Sophomore Chase Preston is also expected to pitch at the varsity level this season. Preston, who can play infield and outfield, hit .227 last season with five hits in 22 plate appearances. He also was often used as a courtesy runner and ended up plating 21 runs.
“He’s an outstanding baseball player,” Gertz said of Preston. “He can play just about any position and he will be in our rotation also. In the summer in the Babe Ruth program when they went to the state tournament, he pitched a no-hitter against Elkins. He has a real good arm with a good breaking ball and good movement on his fastball. We have four solid starters with Z, Trace, Johnny and Chase. Benji, Trace and Trent will give us more depth.”
Adkins and Minnick are expected to split duties behind the plate. Sophomore Jacob Browning gives the Wildcats another option.
“He’s come in with a different attitude,” Gertz said of Browning. “He’s a big, strong kid from Omar. I don’t know how much he will catch this year. They call him ‘The Hammer.’ He was a good Little League player down there. He’s working hard and he’s developing and maturing both physically and mentally. He played some football and played linebacker and it helped him.”
Ryan Holstein, a freshman catcher, is “a few years away,” according to Gertz.
At first base, senior Alex Lakatos seems to have the inside track. He only had seven varsity at-bats last season.
“He played some last year and is a strong left-handed hitter,” Gertz said. “He’s capable of driving in runs and giving us some added power.”
Butcher may also play some at first, as well as Adkins and Browning. Adkins could also play third. Freshman Alex Toler is another one of Logan’s first sackers.
“Benji is not going to be out of the lineup. We need him,” Gertz said. “We’ve got versatility in a lot of places. Alex maybe the best defensive first baseman that we have. He’s not ready hitting-wise but as the season goes on who knows? He’s a left-hander and will also be a pitcher of the future.”
Dalton is back as Logan’s starting second baseman. He may also shift some to shortstop depending on the pitching situation.
“He will probably start there again this year,” Gertz said. “He’s an outstanding baseball player. He’s a coach on the field. He shows a lot of leadership. He’s not the biggest person in the world but he’s got good hands and has a good arm. We put a lot of our scheme of things on our middle infielders. They have to be your generals on the field. He certainly is one of those. We may play Trent some at short with Minnick is pitching. His arm has really improved this year.”
Butcher could also see some time at second for Logan as well as Preston and sophomore Zach Hanlon.
Minnick was Logan’s primary shortstop from a year. He is expected to play some there again this spring as well as pitch and catch.
At third base, Burgess seems to have the inside nod. He was used mostly as a pitcher last year but went 3-for-3 at the plate with a double to bat 1.000.
“He’s gotten so much stronger this year,” Gertz said of Burgess. “He has a nice, short swing. He hit the ball very well this summer. He’s ready to step in and blossom. His half brother is Taylor Kraus who played shortstop for us a few years ago.”
Sophomore Cameron Sammons is also pressing for playing time at third and on the mound. Minnick may also play third base if needed along with Preston and Adkins.
“He’s a good baseball player and he may pitch some,” Gertz said of Sammons. “He’s got a good breaking ball. He’s got outstanding range at third base. He moves to his left extremely well. As time goes on he’s going to be a good hitter, too. We’ve got a lot of players who can play third base. We’re going to mix and match with what we have.”
In right field, junior Josh Rein seems to have the inside nod in a new starting role. Rein, a three-sport start at Logan as he also plays football and basketball, saw only limited at-bats a year ago.
“Josh is a tremendous athlete,” Gertz said. “He had a couple of hits in the last game against South Charleston as he replaced Staton. He has one of our strongest arms. We’re moving him to right field because I like to have a strong arm out there.”
Preston has the inside track in left while junior Kyle Harvey could be the front-runner in center to replace Greene. Harvey was 2-for-4 in varsity at-bats last season with a .500 average.
“We could also put Butcher in left and Benji in left,” Gertz said. “It depends on who is on the mound. Kyle Harvey played some JV ball last year for us and did a good job. It’s amazing how much stronger his arm has gotten in one year. He’s not big but he hits the ball hard. We lost of heck of an outfielder last year in Matthew Greene. He covered so much ground out there and that has been so much of a concern but Kyle will do fine. We had a scrimmage the other day and somebody hit a shot in the gap in left center and Kyle was right on it.”
Morrison may also see some time in the outfield when he’s not pitching.
“He’s got one of our strongest arms,” Gertz said.
Sophomore Connor Akers may also see some time in the outfield.
“He played on our Babe Ruth All-Star team last year,” Gertz said. “He’s improved quite a bit. We have a lot of good baseball players to work with.”
Brenton Vance, another outfielder, gives Logan another option.
“He plays basketball and may be the best athlete that we have as far as running and jumping,” Gertz said. “He didn’t play baseball last summer but I told him the other day that if he would make a decision and play baseball he will be very good because he’s got a beautiful swing. I’m not telling him to give up everything else. Heck, the way that he jumps football may be the thing that he needs to do as he would be a good wide receiver. But he loves basketball and this is a basketball community.”
Jared Shawver, a freshman left-hander, may also see some time in the mound for Logan this season.
“He has good ball movement and he’s a lefty which we need,” Gertz said. “We haven’t had many left-handers over the last few years. Matthew Greene pitched some for us as a left-hander. We also have Alex Toler, so we have two left-handers. Several years ago we had three good left-handers in Markie Dowden, John Ryan Steele and Tyler Evans. We haven’t had that many lefties since.”
As always, Logan will face a difficult schedule this spring with home-and-home series against Class AAA teams Cabell Midland, St. Albans, Ripley, Hurricane, Nitro and Winfield. The Wildcats also play Class AA Scott, Class A county rival Man and Kentucky team Belfry in two-game sets.
Logan is set to once again take part in the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., over Spring Break, April 2-5. The Cats, as in normal tradition, are slated to play a pair of New York teams at the beach, as well as a squad from South Carolina.
Logan also has a home-and-home series with 3A Lincoln County and a single game against old sectional foe George Washington.
On April 20, the Cats are scheduled to play a pair of games at George Washington as Logan is set to take on Bridgeport and Charleston Catholic.
The Wildcats are slated to open the season on Wednesday night at Cabell Midland. LHS then goes to Scott on Friday night and hosts St. Albans on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the home opener at Roger Gertz Field.
Gertz is assisted this season by his son Kevin Gertz, Ryan Waugh and Jim Lakatos.
Logan High School
2013 Baseball Schedule
March 20: at Cabell Midland, 6:30 p.m.
March 22: at Scott, 7 p.m.
March 23: St. Albans, 3 p.m.
March 27: Ripley, 7 p.m.
March 28: at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
April 2: vs. Kenmore East (N.Y.) at Mingo Bay Classic at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 2:30 p.m.
April 3: T.L. Hannah (S.C) at Mingo Bay Classic at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 2:30 p.m.
April 4: Bishop Grimes (N.Y.) at Mingo Bay Classic at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 2:30 p.m.
April 5: at Mingo Bay Classic at Myrtle Beach, S.C., TBA
April 9: at Nitro, 7 p.m.
April 10: at Man, 7 p.m.
April 12: at Ripley, 7 p.m.
April 13: Winfield, 7 p.m.
April 15: Cabell Midland, 7 p.m.
April 17: Lincoln County, 7 p.m.
April 20: vs. Bridgeport at George Washington, 2 p.m.
April 20: vs. Charleston Catholic at George Washington, 4:30 p.m.
April 22: Nitro, 7 p.m.
April 23: Scott, 7 p.m.
April 24: at St. Albans, 7 p.m.
April 25: at Belfry (Ky.), 7 p.m.
April 26: Hurricane, 7 p.m.
April 27: at Winfield, 7 p.m.
April 29: at Lincoln County, 5 p.m.
April 30: Man, 7 p.m.
May 1: Belfry (Ky.) 7 p.m.
May 2: George Washington, 7 p.m.