Was this a statement game?
One thing is for certain, though.
The Logan High School baseball team is cementing itself as a major player come post-season tournament time.
The Wildcats surprisingly trounced new Class AAA sectional rival Nitro 11-1 on Monday night at Roger Gertz Field to sweep the season series. Logan also took 4-3 win over Nitro earlier in the season on the road.
Game 2 figured to be another close one.
Class AAA No. 9-ranked Logan (13-4), winners of four straight games and nine out of its last 10, needed just five innings to dust off No. 10 Nitro, a formidable foe in West Virginia baseball the last seven or eight years and last year’s Class AAA state runner-ups.
Logan baseball fans might have groaned a bit during the off-season when it was announced the Cats would be leaving its usually manageable sectional against George Washington and South Charleston to go into a new one with St. Albans and Nitro.
Monday night’s showing, and the season sweep over Nitro, should give Logan hope in the coming sectional tourney which is only two weeks away, unbelievably.
Logan hit the ball a ton against Nitro, pounding out 13 hits to only one for NHS.
Sophomore Z. Minnick, getting a start at catcher, led the way for Logan as he crushed a two-run homer and was 4-for-4 at the plate with three RBI.
Minnick ended the game in the bottom of the fifth with a walk-off RBI pop fly single to left as Logan 10-run-ruled Nitro.
He nearly ended it another way two pitches earlier as he crushed an offering from Nitro lefty Caleb Fridley and pulled it foul on top of the Logan High School building rooftop.
“The home run that he hit was a bomb,” Logan coach Roger Gertz said of Minnick. “He hit it in an area that’s about 370 feet and I bet it cleared it 20 or 30 feet. Some Cal Ripken player over on the field probably got the ball and took off with it.”
On the mound, senior right-hander Johnny Morrison fired a complete game one-hitter to notch the win. Morrison went all five innings and worked his way out of jams in the first and fourth innings. He allowed just the one run and the one hit to go along with five walks and six strikeouts.
“There’s nobody around that has any better stuff than Johnny Morrison,” Gertz said. “His problem is just throwing strikes. But when he does he’s real good. He tries to throw everything away and make them fish but people aren’t going to do that. He’s got a sharp breaker but I think that he tries to throw too hard. He needs to take a little bit off of it and try to control it a bit more. He was able to get out of the jam in the fourth and then got them out in order in the fifth by throwing only eight pitches.”
Fridley was the unwilling recipient of Logan’s offensive wrath and seemed to be the sacrificial lamb as he went all five innings, allowing 11 runs and 13 hits with three strikeouts, two walks and two hit batters. Nitro coach Steve Pritchard, a Chapmanville High School graduate, did not go to his bullpen as Logan pounded on the lefty. Nitro fell to 15-6 on the season with the loss.
“This kid pitched in the state tournament last year and pitched a good game against Princeton,” Gertz said of Fridley. “We hit the ball well and we hit it hard.”
Logan left fielder Brenton Vance also had a big night as he filled in for Josh Rein in the leadoff hole. Vance went 3-for-4 at the plate.
“Brenton Vance did a heck of a job,” Gertz said. “Josh Rein has a pulled hamstring. Brenton came in and he’s a heck of an athlete. The first ball he hit he lined it to right field. He’s got such great speed. He might be one of the quickest kids in the whole school.”
Chase Preston, starting in right field, was 2-for-2 and had a sacrifice bunt.
“Chase continues to hit the ball,” Gertz said. “He struggled forever but his mom took him to the eye doctor. He had a problem in one eye. His depth perception was off. Dr. White corrected it. Ever since that he’s been hitting the daylights out of it. He had been out in front of everything. He’s been killing the ball lately.”
Troy Burgess, Alex Lakatos and Kyle Harvey each had a hit and an RBI for Logan. Trace Butcher added a hit and first baseman Benji Adkins had an RBI. Lakatos and Trent Dalton also had sacrifice bunts.
Ethan Clark, Nitro’s nine hitter, had the team’s only hit — an infield single in the top of the third off Morrison. Clark eventually scored after stealing second and later coming home on Evan Eich’s RBI groundout as Nitro cut Logan’s lead to 2-1.
It was still a ballgame.
But it wouldn’t be one for long.
Logan roughed up Fridley for four runs in the last half of the third to grab a 6-1 lead.
Singles by Preston and Minnick and a bunt single by Butcher loaded up the bases with nobody out.
Burgess then rifled a shot to third which went past the glove of Nitro third baseman Eric Keller for an RBI single as Logan made it 3-1.
Adkins then put Logan on top 4-1 with an RBI groundout to short.
Logan’s left-handed hitting DH Lakatos then put the Cats up 5-1 with a Texas League RBI single past the second baseman’s head. Burgess later scored on a wild pitch as Logan led by five.
In the fourth, Nitro looked to make a comeback as NHS drew three straight walks by Morrison to load up the bases with two outs. Morrison got out of the fix, however, by getting Clark to stand there like the house beside of the road and watch the third strike go by for out number three.
Logan then tacked on three runs in the last half of the fourth to push the margin to 9-1.
Preston got it started with a single.
Minnick then stepped up and clubbed a towering two-run homer in deep left center near the flagpoles to put Logan ahead 8-1. Minnick got all of this one as the shot was estimated at 390 feet. It’s 365 to straight away center at Logan’s spacious ballpark.
Logan added another in the fourth as Butcher was hit by a pitch and later scored on an error by Nitro shortstop Shamblin, who made a tremendous stop on a rifle shot off the bat of Adkins but threw wild at first allowing Butcher to score.
“Benji hit that ball hard,” Gertz said. “Was that great hands or what with their shortstop? He’s an unreal athlete.”
The two runs in the fifth then ended it.
Harvey walked and later scored on a wild pitch for one of the runs. Minnick’s walk-off hit was then the capper.
Logan made it 1-0 in the first as Vance led off with a single, was bunted to second by Preston, took third on Minnick’s single and then scored on a double steal with the runners at the corners.
LHS made it 2-0 in the second. Adkins was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and took second on a bunt by Lakatos. He later scored on Harvey’s RBI single to left center.
Logan committed no errors in the game.
The Wildcats were scheduled to get back into action at home against Scott (11-9) on Tuesday night. The Cats then play at St. Albans (14-6) on Wednesday night, weather permitting, before playing at Belfry, Ky. (7-12), on Thursday. On Friday, Logan is set to host Hurricane (17-3). All games have 7 p.m. starting times.
After that, Logan then has five more scheduled regular season games before the Class AAA sectionals begin on Monday, May 6 with the St. Albans at Nitro game.
On May 7, Logan is scheduled to open sectional play at St. Albans as LHS drew the first-round bye.
Then on May 8, Logan hosts Nitro in Game 3 of the double elimination sectionals.
On May 9 the two remaining teams are set to face off in the finals.
Logan is hoping to regain the sectional title.
Last season, South Charleston ended Logan’s run of 13 straight sectional championships with a 3-1 upset win over the Cats in the championship game.
The last time Logan did not win the sectional crown before that was back in 1999 when St. Albans knocked off LHS in the section tourney.
Logan last faced St. Albans in the sectionals in 2000. Logan won the section crown that year and went on to win two straight Class AAA state championships and finished state runner-ups in 2002.
Gertz said the post-season has come upon his team rather quickly.
“It’s amazing that we only have two weeks left,” he said. “If they ever change the school calendar maybe baseball will have a chance where you can play a little bit longer. Down in South Carolina they are allowed 20 games and two tournaments which is about what we get but they start in mid-January outside. They play three games a week and we have to play five or six a week. They get to practice and go over things. We don’t have that luxury. When we start playing there are a lot of games.”
* It was announced at Monday’s Logan baseball game that freshman football player Skyler Miller would be allowed to come home this weekend.
Miller was diagnosed recently with leukemia and had been getting treatment.