King was king of the hill.
King, the senior right-handed pitching ace for Martinsburg, fired a one-hitter and led Martinsburg to an 8-1 win over Logan on Saturday in the Class AAA state tourney semifinals at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park.
King walked five and struck out 10 over seven innings to help the Bulldogs (27-9) advance to Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. Class AAA state championship game against defending champ Nitro, which disposed of John Marshall in Saturday’s other 3A semifinal.
For Logan, it was the end of the line as the Wildcats closed out the 2009 season with a 25-9 record.
The Wildcats, last year’s Class AA state champions, were hoping to advance to Sunday’s finals and have a shot at a second straight championship and fifth in the decade.
Logan, though, found the goings a bit rough at the Triple-A level and against King.
The Wildcats, which moved up to Class AAA ball this year, were playing in West Virginia’s highest class for the first time since 2002. Under the WVSSAC’s new classification alignments which went into effect this school year, Logan will remain in 3A until at least 2012.
Logan coach Roger Gertz, who has coached the Wildcats to state championships in 1994, 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2008, said he knew it would be tough to beat Martinsburg, a ballclub which downed Logan 10-0 last season in a game at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“We knew that they were going to be a great ballclub and they are,” Gertz said. “Brandon King did a great job. He had us right where he wanted us. They hit the ball well and we sort of self-destructed, too. We’ve been playing real good defense but today wasn’t the day.”
Logan uncharacteristically committed four errors in the game, while Martinsburg didn’t have any. All four proved to be costly.
The lone Wildcat hit of the day was second baseman Shaun Wagner’s two-out bunt single in the fifth which broke up King’s no-hitter.
Junior left-hander Todd Fleming was the starter for Logan and the pitcher of record. He kept the Bulldogs scoreless through two innings before Martinsburg was able to plate two in the third and four in the fourth to chase him off the mound.
Fleming went 3-2/3 innings and yielded six runs and six hits while striking out four and walking one. He was relieved by senior submariner Ronnie Abbott in the fourth and senior right-hander Jordan Butcher in the fifth.
“I thought Todd threw the ball well early but made a couple of mistakes,” Gertz said. “You just can’t make mistakes against a team like that. He started off by not fielding the bunt cleanly and that opened the door for them early.”
Fleming retired the first seven Bulldog batters before Austin Nealey had a single and Brian LeFevre followed with a bunt single.
King then had an RBI single to make it 1-0 Martinsburg.
Fleming then walked Zack Woolcock and soon tried to pick him off at first base. The throw, however, hit Woolcock in the back and bounced away from first baseman Butcher, allowing Ryan Bennett to score from third on the error to make it 2-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, Martinsburg began to open it up with a four-spot.
A two-run throwing error by Logan allowed the Bulldogs to take a 4-0 lead. Nealey then drove in the fifth run with a sac fly to center. Bennett’s RBI single then made it a 6-0 ballgame.
Martinsburg added two more in the fifth.
Zack Stolipher led off with a double off Abbott.
Gertz then went to the bullpen again with Butcher but Martinsburg scored two more runs – one on another Logan error and the other on a wild pitch – to up the margin to 8-0.
Logan managed to score its only run of the game in the top of the sixth as Ross Easterling walked and later scored on a pass ball to finish out the scoring at 8-1.
King issued a one-out walk to Wagner in the top of the seventh but then got senior pinch-hitter Nick Hoff to pop out to short and then fanned senior pinch-hitter Corey Hooker to end the game.
It was the last prep contest for Logan’s senior class, which consisted of: Easterling; Josh Wilson; Butcher; Cody Vinson; Chad Boytek; Abbott; Hoff and Hooker.
Martinsburg coach John Lowery Jr. said King pitched a heck of a game.
“He only gave up one hit and that could have been an error or it would have been a no-hitter,” he said. “He had a few unfortunate walks in the fifth and seventh innings but he competed like he has the last month of the year for us.”
Lowery said he’s looking forward to the Nitro challenge tomorrow. Nitro, led by a host of all-state players, is coached by Chapmanville High School graduate Steve Pritchard. Nitro made an appearance in Logan County this season as the Wildcats beat Man, 16-2, in Chapmanville’s tourney at Ted Ellis Field.
“We’re going to have to make plays and score some runs tomorrow,” he said. “Nitro is like the New York Yankees. Nitro is the best team.”
For Logan, the season was not a disappointment.
The Wildcats won their 10th straight sectional title this spring and captured yet another regional championship and played in another state tournament.
“The kids had a great season. We weren’t sure that we were up to this when we started out,” Gertz said. “But they worked hard and we are very proud of our young men. Our Double-A regional that we had been in was very tough. Triple-A is tough, too. You just have to come out and play. Whatever you are dealt you have got to play that hand. I thought we did that all year long and I’m really proud of my kids.”
Gertz was asked if he was coming back to coach in 2010. At the end of last year’s state tourney in which Logan beat Point Pleasant, 13-3, for the Class AA state title, Gertz said he was going to think it over. He decided on coming back this season and he said he’s glad he did.
Gertz’s son, Logan assistant coach Kevin Gertz, looks to be his heir apparent but that might still be a few years off.
“I’m going to take a week off and go to Cincinnati,” Gertz said. “I’m going to play a lot of tennis this summer. But I had a good time this year and I’m glad that I came back. We had a good group of seniors and I really enjoyed being with them. Kevin is getting close to getting his degree. He’s in the program now and he’s working hard at it. Who knows? We’ll just have to play it day to day.”
Nitro 12, John Marshall 3
CHARLESTON (AP) — Nitro’s talent and experience were too much for John Marshall in the Class AAA semifinals.
Defending champion Nitro scored six runs in the third inning and beat the Monarchs 12-3 Saturday.
Nitro (31-4) will face Martinsburg (27-9) in Sunday’s title game at Appalachian Power Park. The Wildcats beat Martinsburg 10-0 during the regular season and by the same score in last year’s semifinals.
‘‘We’ll have our hands full,’’ said Nitro coach Steve Pritchard. ‘‘They’ve improved since the last time we played them.’’