The Logan High School baseball team headed to St. Albans on Saturday and the Wildcats were fighting for their playoff lives.
After Friday night’s 14-2 loss to No. 3-ranked Nitro at Logan’s Roger Gertz Field, the LHS Wildcats were down a game in in its double-elimination Class AAA Region 4 Section 2 tournament.
Saturday’s game at St. Albans amounted to an elimination game. The Red Dragons are also down a game following Thursday night’s 14-0 loss at Nitro.
With two sectional tourney wins already in its pocket, Nitro (18-10) is in the driver’s seat.
Nitro is scheduled to host the Logan-St. Albans winner on Monday in a best-of-three game series. One more win by Nitro and it’s over.
Nitro certainly flexed its muscles on Friday night at Logan’s pitcher-friendly Roger Gertz Field — a ballpark with deep dimensions particularly in the power alleys and in center field — and a ballyard that hasn’t produced that many home runs over the years.
That didn’t stop Nitro as the NHS Wildcats ripped two home runs and finished off Logan in five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Nitro went yard twice in its six-run fifth inning.
First, it was starting pitcher Andrew Stone, who crushed a pitch from Logan reliever Peyton Branham deep over the centerfield wall for a three-run homer which put Nitro ahead 11-2. The ball traveled well beyond the formally posted 365-foot sign — an estimated 390 feet.
The next batter, beefy shortstop Matt Harrison, followed with a solo homer to left to make it a 12-2 ballgame, setting in the possibility of a mercy game.
Back in the second inning, Harrison created a buzz in the crowd as he hammered a 2-2 fastball from Logan senior lefty starter Jared Shawver, pulling it foul deep down the left field line. The ball bounced on top of the school’s roof, well past the outfield wall, a shot of some 350 feet.
A couple of pitches later, Harrison drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to center as Nitro went up 6-2 and took command of the game.
Stone was 3-for-4 with a homer, two singles and four RBI. Harrison was 2-for-2 with his homer and three RBI. Third baseman Jake Williams was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI.
Logan had just two hits in the game — a two-out single by catcher Tyler Topping in the bottom of the third and shortstop TJay Mullins’ leadoff infield single in the fourth.
Stone went the distance on the mound and picked up the win for Nitro, allowing two unearned runs on two hits with seven strikeouts, one walk and two hit batters.
Shawver suffered the loss on the hill for Logan. He tossed four innings and yielded eight runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
Branham came on to pitch in the fifth but only lasted 2/3 of an inning as he yielded six runs on three hits with four walks. Mullins then finished out the game on the mound for Logan.
Nitro jumped on top 2-0 with two runs in the top of the first. Harrison laced a sharply-hit RBI single to left to make it 1-0. The second run came home on Jacob Bradley’s RBI triple to right field.
Logan then tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the first with a pair of unearned runs which were aided by three Nitro errors.
Will Akers led off the inning after getting hit by a pitch. Alex Toler bunted and then was safe after a Nitro fielding error.
Chase Burnette was later safe on another Nitro error.
Tyler Topping’s fielder’s choice then drove in a run and Ryan Holstein was safe on yet another Nitro error as the game was knotted at 2.
Nitro then plated four runs in the top of the second. The big blow was a two-run triple down the left field line by Jason Douglas, Nitro’s second baseman and No. 9 hole hitter.
Catcher Matt Jewell’s two-run single in the fourth then increased the margin to 8-2.
Nitro then put the game away with its six-spot in the fifth, led by the Stone and Harrison home runs. Nitro sent 11 batters to the plate, also scoring two on a bases loaded double by Williams.
Stone then got Logan out in the bottom of the fifth to end the game early.
Nitro, last year’s Class AAA state runner-ups, had no problem with rival St. Albans on Thursday as Bradley fired a five-inning no-hitter with 11 strikeouts. He walked just one batter.
Harrison was 3-for-4 at the plate with a triple and three RBI. Jewell was 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBI. Jared Hill and Bradley also had two RBIs.
Logan and Nitro will be seeing more of each other in the coming years. Both schools are headed down to Class AA ball next school year and will be joining the newly expanded Cardinal Conference, along with Winfield.
Logan and Nitro will no longer play in the state sectional however.
Nitro is seeking its eighth state tournament appearance in the last 10 years.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).