Often times in its recent history the Logan High School baseball team seems to play its best ball when there is a sense of urgency.
With their backs against the wall after a sectional tournament opening loss at St. Albans on Saturday, Logan needed a win over a tough Nitro team on Monday to stay alive.
The equation was simple.
Win and survive.
Or lose and fold up the tents.
As they had done in the past, the Wildcats came up with a showstopper when then needed it most as Logan shut out Nitro, 2-0, in the second game of the Class AAA sectional tournament at Logan’s Roger E. Gertz Field.
With the win, Logan (22-9) lived to play another day.
And wouldn’t you know it?
Who does Logan get in its next game?
The same St. Albans Red Dragons on Wednesday night at home in Game 4 of the sectionals in a 6:30 p.m. contest.
It could be payback time and elimination time for St. Albans, which had to travel to a surely-fired up Nitro (21-8) team on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the double-elimination sectionals. If Nitro is able to hold serve at home, that would put Logan, 1-1 in sectional play, in an elimination game against 1-1 St. Albans on Wednesday night.
But first things first.
What a gem of a game Troy Burgess pitched against Nitro.
The senior right-hander refused to let Logan go quietly as he fired six shutout innings, giving up only three hits while striking out seven and walking only one batter. Burgess had an outstanding 2014 regular season as he posted a 4-3 record with a 0.75 ERA, the best on the team, with 20 strikeouts and 15 walks in a 28-inning worksheet.
With two runners on base representing the potential game-tying runs, Logan coach Roger Gertz turned to his bullpen with Z. Minnick. The junior right-hander, who pitched in relief in the 4-3, 9-inning loss at St. Albans on Saturday, showed no signs of a recent hamstring injury as he got three straight outs to earn the save and preserve Logan’s win. After a fielder’s choice, Minnick reached back for a bit extra and struck out the final two Nitro batters to end the game.
With the win, Logan is back in it and not phased by the sectional opener loss to St. Albans.
In the past, the Wildcats rallied from a loss down in the sectionals to win the section title. In the 2000s decade, Logan did it twice in its Class AA days in its old sectional with Chapmanville and Scott.
Logan hopes to do it again but there is still a long way to go.
For now, the Cats are enjoying Monday’s win.
“That is probably the best game Troy Burgess has ever thrown,” Coach Gertz said. “He was unbelievable. He threw the slider where he needed to and had the fastball where he needed it. He hit his spots and he did a great job. I thought our defense was great, too. Trace Butcher at second made some good plays. He got his body in front of a couple of hard hit balls. Kyle Harvey made a great play in center field. Z. then came in and he’s getting better and better. Tonight, he had good velocity. To the last batter he was bringing it.”
Nitro right-hander Tyler Barton suffered the tough luck loss on the mound. He went six innings and gave up two runs on just three hits with five strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter.
Logan got all of its hits in the third off Barton and made them count. After the third inning, Barton sat down 10 out of the last 11 batters he faced with the only blemish coming with two outs in the bottom of the fourth as Alex Toler was hit by a pitch.
“It was just a great ballgame both ways,” Gertz said. “Their kid pitched a heck of a ballgame.”
In the bottom of the third and the game scoreless, Logan shortstop Chase Preston started the two-out rally by doubling high off the left field wall.
When Preston connected it looked like it might be a home run. However, the spacious Roger E. Gertz Field held the ball in the park and Preston ended up on second base with a standup double.
With the two rows of advertisement signs at the Logan ballpark it was somewhat hard to tell if the ball hit the lower level (the outfield wall) or the upper level which is in home run territory. The view creates an illusion at certain angles.
Gertz said it was indeed a double and the umpires made the right call.
“It’s hard to see that,” Gertz said. “We really need to put a yellow cap on top of the fence. I don’t think it was out of here. We played Man here once and they hit one out and it was called a double. There’s probably six feet between the two rows of signs.”
After Preston’s double, senior second baseman Trace Butcher then ripped an RBI single to center. Butcher scored to make it 1-0. A heads-up Preston raced to second on the relay home. Catcher Z. Minnick, who was carrying a .500 batting average into the game with seven home runs and 34 RBI, was then intentionally walked to put two on with two outs.
Logan third baseman Chase Burnette then made them play as he scored Butcher with an RBI single to left to make it 2-0.
The lead held.
Until the very end.
Nitro, coached by Chapmanville High School graduate Steve Pritchard, made some noise in the top of the seventh inning and refused to go down without a fight.
Dylan Slack led off with an infield single and then was awarded second base after a bizarre balk call on Burgess. The Logan pitcher had stepped off the rubber and tossed the ball home to exchange baseballs. The home plate umpire ruled that time had not been called and it was a balk.
The next batter, Ryan McDonough, then walked.
The strange balk put Logan into a fix as Nitro had runners at first and second and nobody out.
“What it did (the balk) was that it eliminated the force play. But that run really didn’t mean anything. The guy at the plate was the one that we had to get out,” Gertz said.
With two on, Gertz went to the bullpen and called upon Minnick to take off the catcher’s gear and go to the mound.
Minnick then got three straight outs — the last two on strikeouts — to preserve the win and notch the save.
Both teams only had three hits in the game. Matt Harrison and Jacob Bradley added singles for Nitro.
Both teams had one error.
Logan how turns its attention to Wednesday’s game with St. Albans.
It could be do or die for both teams. It certainly will be for Logan since it already has the loss.
“We have a tough one here on Wednesday night,” Gertz said. “I’m sure that we’ll go against the same kid that pitched against us over there and we had trouble with him. Hopefully, we’ll be a little more prepared this time. Then if we win, we might have to go back to Nitro on Thursday.”
Region 4 Section 2
Saturday: St. Albans 4, Logan 3, 9 innings
Monday: Logan 2, Nitro 0
Tuesday: St Albans at Nitro, 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday: St. Albans at Logan, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday: Finals, TBA