by Beau Wicker
After being robbed in two earlier at-bats, Logansport’s Clayton Frye stepped to the plate in the top of the 11th inning and sent a routine fly ball into left field.
Lafayette Jeff’s left fielder lost the ball in the lights allowing it to fall in for a double.
That fortunate base hit started a four-run inning for the Berries, who held in the bottom of the frame for a wild 8-6 win in 11 innings at Loeb Stadium on Friday night in Joe Heath Classic Play.
“It was intense, it was fun,” said Logansport catcher Chris Jones, who had what turned out to be the game-winning hit.
With the bases loaded and one out, Jones lined a shot over a pulled in outfield off the wall to clear the bases.
“I just knew I had to get it on the ground and get it somewhere and get somebody in,” Jones said, “and we could get the lead and get three outs and get out of here.”
Travis Palmer followed with an RBI single that added an insurance run for the Berries (2-0).
Palmer (1-0) got the win on the mound in 4 2/3 innings of relief. He followed Connor Looker, who pitched 6 1/3 strong innings to start the game for the Berries. He left with a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh, but he put runners on first and second on a hit batsman and a walk before he exited.
With two outs in the inning, Peter Ripke sent a hanging breaking ball offering from Palmer into the cold night and over the fence to tie the game and extend it for what turned out to be another four innings.
Ripke, and Palmer, knew the ball was gone right off the bat.
“I came in the seventh inning real excited. I’m like ‘it’s my first varsity pitching, I’ve got this,’” Palmer said. “Big boy comes up and hits at least a 450-foot bomb, the thing hit Arni’s.
“I kept my head, you’ve got to compose yourself. You give up a three-run home run tying the game, you’ve got to compose yourself. My teammates helped me a lot, helped me control myself, got out of the inning. And we just battled back.”
Palmer worked out of a jam in the eighth. With a runner on third and one out and both the infield and outfield playing in, he induced a groundout to third that third baseman Cory Rozzi made a nice play on to get the out and keep the runner at third. Palmer then walked a batter to put runners on first and third but then picked him off unassisted after the old fake-to-third play, tagging the runner before the run could score.
Frye led off the 11th with his double for the Berries. After two unsuccessful bunt attempts, pinch-hitter Marcus Record delivered a single through the left side of the infield to put runners on first and third. Dustin Clements followed with an infield single to load the bases, setting up Jones’ heroics.
Ripke wasn’t done with his two-out clutch hitting, as he delivered another blast, this one a two-run shot to center, to extend the game in the bottom of the 11th.
“That one was a good two feet out of the zone. He drove that 400 feet, too,” Palmer said.
Reid Pittard followed with a double to bring the tying run to the plate, but Palmer induced a comebacker to end the game.
The Berries jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning without the benefit of a hit. Tommy Corcoran walked, stole second, advanced to third on the throw into center field and scored on a sac fly by Nito Luna. Palmer walked, stole second and later scored after a pair of wild pitches.
The Berries took advantage of three Jeff errors in the second inning to score another run. Clements singled and later scored on one of the errors.
The Bronchos took advantage of one of the Berries’ four errors in the game to plate a run in the fourth on a sac fly by Blake Nugent. The Berries answered with what turned out to be a key insurance run in the seventh on an RBI single by Corcoran.
Clements and Jones each went 2-for-3 for the Berries, who finished with nine hits in the contest.
The Bronchos, who went 2-2 during a spring break trip to Knoxville, Tenn., dropped to 2-3 on the season. They committed seven errors in the contest.
Ripke, who will play college ball at Vincennes, went 2-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs to lead the Bronchos.
The Berries face Harrison at 3 p.m. today, followed by a game against McCutcheon. Both games are at McCutcheon.
“It’s a big weekend for us,” Palmer said.