By Paul Adkins Sports Editor
March 26, 2014
The goal is always to make it to Charleston and the state tournament.
But when the Logan High School baseball team takes to the field this spring for the 2014 season five years will have passed since the last time the Wildcats advanced to play at Appalachian Power Park.
Logan’s last state tournament experience was back in 2009.
It’s been a drought not seen in recent years for the Wildcats.
After getting upset at South Charleston in the 2012 sectional championship game, Logan saw its string of 12 straight section titles snapped.
Logan was placed into a tougher Class AAA sectional last season with Nitro and St. Albans and the Wildcats ended up knocking off both teams to win its 13th sectional title in the last 14 years.
Even though the Wildcats went to Winfield and lost in the regional tournament, it was a step in the right direction.
Logan hopes to take another step this spring and make it past the region tourney to rejoin the state tournament field for the first time in five years.
The Wildcats, 20-10 last year, loses a few starters from last season’s team.
But plenty of talent returns and Logan hopes to have another successful season. Logan began the season with last Saturday’s 4-3 loss at Lawrence County (Ky.).
Logan coach Roger Gertz is back at the helm for the Wildcats. Toward the end of last season, all indications were that Gertz would step down as Logan’s coach. He is back this spring and hopes to keep the Wildcats headed in the right direction.
Gertz led Logan to Class AAA state championships in 1994, 2000 and 2001 and Class AA state crowns in 2005 and 2008. Logan just missed winning a third straight Triple-A state championship in 2002 when the Cats were upended in the state finals by Hurricane at Charleston’s old Watt Powell Park.
“We’ve got some good baseball players,” Gertz said of his team. “But our problem is that they don’t play enough in the summer from what they really need but part of that is my fault. We’ve got some really good individual talents.”
When you talk about Logan baseball’s current team one name comes to mind.
The junior had an outstanding season last year and was named Class AAA first-team all-state.
As a sophomore a year ago, Minnick had a hefty .535 batting average with six home runs and 39 RBI. Minnick also led the team last year in doubles with 10, triples with three and total hits with 43. He also had a team-high 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts.
Minnick was also Logan’s top pitcher last year as the right-hander was 7-2 with a 1.38 ERA with 53 strikeouts and just 11 issued walks in a 51-inning worksheet.
Minnick, who split time in the field at shortstop and behind the plate at catcher, was named in the off-season as the state’s top junior prospect.
Gertz expects him to have another big season this spring.
“Zach Minnick is an outstanding baseball player,” Gertz said. “He did have a good year last year and was a first-team all-state player. He’s a good catcher and he can shut down your running game, that’s for sure. He caught most of last year.”
Chase Preston, another junior, will be highly counted on as well as Logan’s shortstop. He will also pitch. Preston hit .325 last season for the Wildcats with eight RBI, five doubles and a triple. He was also 8-for-8 in stolen bases. As a pitcher, Preston was 2-1 with a 2.62 ERA last season. He struck out 19 batters in 19 innings of work.
“He is another outstanding baseball player,” Gertz said of Preston. “He’ll play at short and will pitch. He was hurt in our opener when he jammed some fingers in his throwing hand. We hope that’s he’s OK. He’s got a lot of experience. He played a lot as a sophomore and started all of last year.”
Logan has several other players who will pitch.
“We feel like we will have six or seven pretty good pitchers,” Gertz said.
One of those is sophomore left-hander Jared Shawver. Last year, he pitched three scoreless innings at the varsity level.
“He’s not real overpowering but he has a really good breaking ball and a real good change,” Gertz said of Shawver.
Chase Burnette, a sophomore right-hander, also figures into Logan’s rotation and may also see some action in relief. Burnette had a four-inning varsity worksheet last season and had a 3.50 ERA with six strikeouts.
“He’s really coming along. He’s got a good fastball,” Gertz said.
Troy Burgess, a right-hander, is another top Logan pitcher. Last season, he was 4-1 with a 1.20 ERA and one save. He tossed 35 innings and allowed just six earned runs while striking out 36 and walking 11.
“He had a real good year last year,” Gertz said of Burgess. “He’s going to be at the top of our pitching rotation.”
Tim Saunders, a senior who moved with his family from Florida, could also give Logan a lot of quality innings on the mound.
“His mom and dad were originally from Logan High School,” Gertz said. “They moved back here this year. He’ll be an addition to our pitching staff. He’s a senior and he will probably catch some when Minnick pitches. He’s also a third baseman.”
Trace Butcher, a senior righty, gives Logan another pitching arm. He threw 8.1 innings last year and fanned nine with a 5.90 ERA.
“He’s been throwing the ball real well,” Gertz said.
Freshman Will Akers gives Logan some added depth on the hill.
“As the year goes on I think that he will help us,” Gertz said of Akers. “He got hurt in a JV basketball game. His back in the shoulder blades area has been hurting him. He can also play second base.”
Logan lost all-state pitcher Johnny Morrison (7-3, 1.04 ERA) to graduation.
At catcher, Logan returns Minnick. Saunders will likely be behind the plate with Minnick pitches.
“He’s got an outstanding arm,” Gertz said of Minnick. “He’s got real good feet. He’s just a complete baseball player. Saunders hasn’t caught a whole lot but he’s very capable. He will probably catch when Zach pitches.”
Sophomore Ryan Holstein can also catch.
At first base, Logan graduated Alex Lakatos. Burnette and Alex Toler are expected to split time there this year. Both saw limited varsity at-bats a year ago.
“Alex Toler is an oustanding defensive first baseman,” Gertz said. “He’s about as good a defensive first baseman as we have had here since we had John Ryan Steele. His hitting is not quite there yet. He even played some defensive first base for us last year.”
At second base, Logan lost Trent Dalton due to graduation. Butcher will be his likely replacement. Last year, Butcher hit .304 with nine RBI and a pair of doubles.
“He has really improved his defensive skills,” Gertz said of Butcher.
Zach Hanlon may also see some time at second base. He had six hits in 13 plate appearances last year for a .462 average with four RBI, two doubles and a triple. Cameron Sammons is also pressing for time at second base.
Preston is Logan’s likely starting shortstop. He was a Class AAA special honorable mention all-state selection last year. Akers will also see time at short.
Burgess, a senior, who was named special honorable mention all-state last year, is back as the Wildcats’ starting third baseman. He hit .329 last season with 24 RBI and four doubles.
Saunders can also play third as well as Burnette.
In left field, senior Josh Rein is back as Logan’s starter. Last year, Rein was named special honorable mention all-state as he hit .391 with 13 RBI and four doubles. Rein, a three-sport standout at LHS, stole seven bases last year in eight attempts.
“He started all last year,” Gertz said of Rein. “He got hurt last year when he hurt his hamstring a third of the way though the season. He missed eight games. By the time when he went out he was really playing well.”
In center field, senior Kyle Harvey is back. Last season, Harvey hit .317 with eight RBI and a pair of doubles and four stolen bases.
“Kyle also started all of last year for us,” Gertz said.
In right field, Hanlon is pressing for playing time.
“He hit really well last year and we moved him to the outfield to get his bat in the lineup,” Gertz said. “He didn’t have any hits in our opener but he hit it sharply twice.”
Brenton Vance could also see time in right as well as Conner Akers, Will’s cousin.
Logan plays another tough schedule this spring.
New to the slate is a home-and-home series with Lawrence County, Ky. The Bulldogs come to Logan late in the season.
The Wildcats play many of the same teams as last year, with games against Ripley, Cabell Midland, Lincoln County, Point Pleasant, Huntington, St. Albans, George Washington and Hurricane.
Also on the schedule are home-and-home series against Class A county rival Man and Class AA Scott. Another Kentucky team, Belfry, is also on the slate.
The highlight of the season is Logan’s Spring Break trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the Mingo Bay Classic, April 14-18. Logan went 2-2 last year in the annual tourney, defeating a pair of New York teams and losing to a South Carolina team and another squad from New York.
At Myrtle Beach, Logan is set to open round-robin play on Monday, April 14 against Austintown Fitch (Ohio). On April 15, Logan is set to face Socastee (S.C.). Then on April 16, LHS takes on Greenbrier Christian Academy (Va.). LHS will then have another game on April 17 and possibly a fifth game on April 18.
The Logan baseball team is also scheduled to play in the Ed Carter tourney at St. Albans and also in the George Washington tourney.
The Cats regained the Class AAA sectional championship last season by downing St. Albans, 4-2, on the road. It was Logan’s first section crown in two years after a one-year hiatus. The Wildcats had won sectional titles 12 straight years from 2000-11 before losing in 2012 in the section finals.
Logan beat St. Albans 10-0 in last year’s sectional opener on the road, before winning 5-2 at home over Nitro and falling 5-2 at home to St. Albans. Logan then went on the road and defeated the Red Dragons in the winner-take-all final.
“This is a tough section,” Gertz said. “They both have the nucleus of their teams back. This section will really be strong again this season. Our schedule is really going to be tough. Our home opener is Monday, March 31 against Cabell Midland. They were the state runner-ups last year and they return nine seniors. They are going to be strong.”
Logan was eventually ousted on the road at Winfield in last year’s regional tourney.
“Winfield and Point Pleasant are both going to be strong again in our region,” Gertz said. “Whoever wins in our section will have to play the winner in that one. Then whoever wins that would have to play Cabell Midland, Huntington or Spring Valley in the finals. It’s a tough region.”
2014 Logan High School
Baseball Schedule (0-1):
March 22: at Lawrence County, Ky., L 3-4
March 26: at Ripley, 7 p.m.
March 31: Cabell Midland, 7 p.m.
April 1: at Winfield, 7 p.m.
April 3: Lincoln County, 7 p.m.
April 5: at Point Pleasant, 7 p.m.
April 7: at Huntington, 7 p.m.
April 8: at Belfry, Ky., 7 p.m.
April 10: St. Albans, 7 p.m.
April 11: Belfry, Ky., 7 p.m.
April 14: vs. Austintown Fitch (Ohio) at Mingo Bay Classic, Myrtle Beach, S.C., TBA
April 15: vs. Socastee (S.C.) at Mingo Bay Classic, Myrtle Beach, S.C., TBA
April 16: vs. Greenbrier Christian Academy (Va.) at Mingo Bay Classic, Myrtle Beach, S.C., TBA
April 17: vs. TBA at Mingo Bay Classic, Myrtle Beach, S.C., TBA
April 18: vs. TBA at Mingo Bay Classic, Myrtle Beach, S.C., TBA
April 21: Scott, 7 p.m.
April 22: Man, 7 p.m.
April 23: at Cabell Midland, 7 p.m.
April 25: at George Washington, 1 p.m.
April 25: at Winfield (at GW), 4 p.m.
April 26: at Ed Carter Tournament, St. Albans, 4 p.m.
April 28: Huntington, 7 p.m.
April 30: Ripley, 7 p.m.
May 1: at Scott, 7 p.m.
May 2: Winfield, 7 p.m.
May 5: Lawrence County, Ky., 6 p.m.
May 7: at Lincoln County, 5 p.m.
May 8: at Man, 7 p.m.
May 9: George Washington, 7 p.m.
May 10: Point Pleasant, 12 p.m.
May 12: Hurricane, 6:30 p.m.
May 13: at Hurricane, 6 p.m.