PHOTO | Bill Lusk
Logan coach Kevin Gertz talks with his team during a timeout of the Wildcats 12-7 victory over Charleston Catholic Monday afternoon at Roger E. Gertz Field. Logan will face Shady Spring at 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon in the Class AA state tournament at Appalachian Power Park.
Bill Lusk | WVOW Sports
LOGAN When the first pitch is thrown to start the Class AA state tournament Thursday afternoon, Logan coach Kevin Gertz said it is up for grabs and any one of the four teams can win the AA championship this weekend at Appalachian Power Park.
It took until the final date to set each of the four seeds. Region 1 champion Fairmont Senior (21-9) and Region 2 champion Robert C. Byrd (26-10) needed just two games to claim regional crowns and a berth in the state tournament while Region 3 champion Shady Spring (22-8) and Region 4 champion Logan (27-9) needed three games to punch its ticket to Charleston.
When the dust settled and the coaches’ ballot were tabulated, Logan earned the top seed followed by Robert C. Byrd second, Fairmont Senior third and Shady Spring fourth.
No. 1 Logan may be the favorite to win the Class AA championship this weekend. The Wildcats won the 2021 state championship and is looking to go back-to-back for the second time in school history. The Wildcats started the season 10-0, dropped six of their next eight games before winning 15 of its remaining 18 games to close the year.
No. 2 Robert C. Byrd is making its first ever state tournament appearance in school history. The Eagles started the season 8-2 but dropped three of their next five games before winning 16 of their next 21 games.
No. 3 Fairmont Senior is back in the state tournament for the first time since 2014. The Polar Bears started the season 5-0 but lost their next six games and have won 16 of their last 19 since starting the season 5-6. The Polar Bears hold the honor of being the last team to defeat Bridgeport, who has won seven consecutive state championships from 2014-present. The Polar Bears defeated the Indians, 9-6, in 10 innings of the 2013 Class AA semifinals.
No. 4 Shady Spring is making its second appearance in four years. The Tigers qualified for the 2019 Class AA tournament but was defeated by Bridgeport. The Tigers have had an up and down season starting the year 6-0 before losing their next two games. From there they won eight of their next 10 games but dropped four of their next six before closing the year with wins in six of their remaining eight games.
“We got a heck of a ballclub but so does Shady, so does RCB and so does Fairmont Senior,” Gertz said. “It is strong and anyone of these four teams can win it and it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if any of us won it.”
Of the four remaining teams in the Class AA tournament, only Logan and Shady Spring have experience playing at Appalachian Power Park. Eight of nine Logan starters return from last year’s state championship team.
On the other hand, Shady Spring has limited experience at Power Park. Four seniors were freshmen when the Tigers qualified for the 2019 Class AA state tournament.
Gertz is hoping that experience pays off this week and plays to Logan’s advantage.
“It is a little bit of advantage to us, we know the surroundings, and we know what it is,” Gertz said. “Eight of them started last year, played two games on it, played in the field, but every year is different.”
Following a regional championship victory over Sissonville, Logan played two tune-up games losing to George Washington, 16-6, on Saturday and defeating Charleston Catholic, 12-7, Monday afternoon.
Gertz wasn’t pleased with his team’s approach or execution at the plate or in the field in those two games especially in the win over Charleston Catholic.
“I didn’t like how we approached things and we didn’t execute real well,” Gertz said. “We didn’t get a bunt down, we didn’t execute a pickoff and we got to be a lot more focused.”
Logan is very familiar with its semifinal opponent. The Wildcats defeated Shady Spring, 10-0, in five innings on April 30 at Roger E. Gertz Field.
Thursday’s matchup could be a rematch of that April 30 contest with Logan’s Dawson Maynard and Shady Spring’s Cam Manns possibly on the mound for their respective school.
Maynard allowed just one hit, a second inning single to Evan Belcher, in five innings while striking out seven and walking two. For the year, Maynard is 4-1 with a 1.48 ERA with 44 strikeouts and only nine walks in 33 innings pitched.
Manns, whose only loss was to Logan, was touched up for six runs on seven hits in four innings. Manns walked three, hit one and struck out one. For the year, Manns is 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 19 walks in 39 1/3 innings pitched this season.
“Manns has lost one game all year, and I am sure that is who is going to throw, and he lost to us,” Gertz said. “He didn’t have a breaking ball that day and that will not happen again.”
“He will be on, probably throwing his best game of the season,” Gertz said. “If we are not up for the challenge it is going to be a long day.”
Logan could elect to start Jared Burnette or lefties Konner Lowe or Ryan Roberts. Roberts struck out seven and allowed one run on two hits in 4 2/3 innings in a 10-2 win over Sissonville on May 25. The following night, Lowe was brilliant in the Wildcats decisive 4-1 victory over Sissonville. Lowe struck out nine and allowed one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“We got five or six very good arms that has pitched quite a bit for us,” Gertz said. “Dawson has the most experience and Konner and Ryan threw great in the regionals.”
Burnette is 5-2 with 4.34 ERA and has struck out 42 and walked 28 in 37 2/3 innings this season. Lowe is 2-1 with a 4.54 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 17 walks in 24 2/3 innings while Roberts is 2-2 with a 4.34 ERA with 43 strikeouts and 20 walks in 29 innings pitched.
If Manns doesn’t toe the rubber for Shady Spring, the Tigers could turn to Alex Johnston or David Young. Johnston is 3-3 with a 5.20 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 41 walks in 33 2/3 innings. Young is 6-3 on the year with a 3.99 ERA and has struck out 69 and walked 25 in 54 1/3 innings.
At the plate, Shady Spring has eight players hitting .350 or better led by Josh Lovell with a .475 average. Lovell leads the team in hits (48), RBIs (43) and shares the team lead in home runs (5) with Adam Richmond.
Johnston is batting .402 and has driven in 32 runs while Jake Meadows (.378), Aden Seabolt (.370, 35 RBIs), Tyler Mackey (.358), who leads the team with 42 runs scored, has three home runs and 31 RBIs on the year.
Richmond is batting .355 with five home runs and 29 RBIs while Belcher is hitting .352 with 34 RBIs.
“They are scary,” Gertz said. “I don’t know if we will be mentally ready to go and if we are not then we will play one game and it will be over.”
Maynard leads Logan with a .481 average and a team-high 52 hits, 48 runs, 11 doubles, six home runs and 45 RBIs. Jake Ramey is hitting .398 with 41 hits, seven doubles, one home run and 39 RBIs. Lowe is batting .390 with 39 hits, seven doubles, one home run and 18 RBIs. Garrett Williamson has an average of .385 with 42 hits, seven doubles, two triples, one home run and 30 RBIs.
Korbin Bostic is hitting .354 with a team high nine triples and 36 walks. Bostic has 29 hits on the year, 18 of which going for extra bases, and has driven in 32 runs while crossing the plate 40 times this season. Aiden Slack has 27 hits and scored 36 runs while leading the team with 16 hit by pitches this season on his way to a .338 average.
“One through six are all over .300 with several of them knew .400,” Gertz said. “We normally hit pretty well, we normally hit good pitching pretty well and we are going to see great pitching.”
Logan and Shady Spring met in the 2004 Class AA semifinals at Watt Powell Park. The Tigers, who committed six errors in the contest, rallied to defeat Logan, 7-6, on an aborted suicide squeeze.
The Wildcats were the more experience team that night, having played in four of the past five state tournaments, but the inability to execute hindered the Wildcats ability to win.
“It’s about execution, we got to execute on the mound, we got to execute defensively, and we got to execute offensively,” Gertz said. “We are going to make our outs and we are not going bang out 10, 12 or 15 hits a game especially in the state tournament. It’s not going to happen you are going to make a lot more outs than you get hits.”
“We got to move runners when we make outs, make contact put the ball in play because again high school kids make errors,” Gertz said. “Put it in play hard on a line, hard on the ground and you got a chance to win.”
Logan is looking to go back-to-back for the second time in school history. The Wildcats won the 2000 and 2001 Class AAA state championship but lost to Hurricane in the 2002 Class AAA championship game in its bid for three in a row.
The Wildcats won the 2005 Class AA championship but lost to Magnolia in the 2006 Class AA semifinals in its bid for a second consecutive championship. Logan won the 2008 Class AA championship but lost in the 2009 Class AAA semifinals to Martinsburg the following year.
“We won seven state titles and won seven state titles by putting pressure on teams,” Gertz said. “They (Magnolia) did what we normally do. They bunted and put pressure on us, we threw it around and got behind where we couldn’t catch up.”
“I definitely that we had the best team in the state that year (2006),” Gertz said. “In 2002, I thought we had the best team in the state, and we were going for three in a row.”
Logan is gunning for its eighth state championship in school history. Logan’s seven championships ranked third all-time in West Virginia trailing Jefferson (12) and Bridgeport (9).
“We got a target on our back, and we are going to get everybody’s best shot,” Gertz said. “We got to match intensity and we got to match or execute better. When that happens, we got a good shot to win.”