by Beau Wicker
In the year of the rainout, Logansport’s season ended on a waterlogged field of frustration.
Lafayette Jeff got the ball to bounce — or splash — its way, and Broncho senior right-hander Peter Ripke was dominant in a 3-1 win over the Berries in a semifinal game of the Class 4A Kokomo baseball sectional at CFD Stadium at Highland Park.
Ripke (6-2) held the Berries to one run on four hits, striking out 11.
“It was too much Peter Ripke,” Logansport coach Jim Turner said. “We had a few opportunities, but we just didn’t get the big hits.”
The second semifinal of the day and the final were, of course, rained out.
The start of the Logansport-Lafayette Jeff battle — two old common semistate foes back in the single-class baseball days — was delayed by rain for two hours. Then just two minutes into the game it was set back for another one hour and 18 minutes due to a rain delay.
When play resumed it was a good ol’ pitcher’s duel between Ripke and Logansport junior Kyle Jordan (3-2).
In the top of the first inning Jordan worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just a two-out infield single by Reid Pittard that scored the game’s first run.
The Berries had a chance to tie it in the bottom of the frame when Tommy Corcoran was hit by the first offering by Ripke and with one out advanced two bases to third on a wild pitch. Cory Rozzi then hit a sinking line drive to left that Keaton Hamilton made a diving catch on. Corcoran thought it would fall so he made a few strides forward instead of tagging and scoring, and he was eventually left stranded.
The Bronchos (19-12) gave the Berries that run back in fifth inning. Dustin Clements started the inning with a bloop single and moved up to second on a bunt by Nito Luna. Clements moved to third on a wild pitch and with two outs scored on an infield single by Corcoran to tie the game at 1-1. Jeff third baseman Blake Nugent hesitated on the ground ball with Clements running towards home and the speedy Corcoran beat out the throw to first for an RBI hit.
Nugent got his redemption as he came up with the go-ahead hit with two outs in the top of the sixth inning when his bloop single scored pinch-runner Jeremy Griggs.
“There’s nothing you can do about that. He just got lucky,” Jordan said. “I thought I made a good pitch, sawed him off.”
Logan center fielder Travis Palmer could have had a play at the plate on the play but the ball stuck in the soggy center field grass instead of bouncing into his mitt for a possible throw to the plate.
Hamilton hit a two-out double in the seventh that scored Ripke all the way from first. On that play, Logan left fielder Luna’s cutoff throw plopped in the wet grass, and shortstop Dustin Clements’ throw to the plate was just late to allow Ripke to score.
The Berries weren’t going to let Ripke beat them at the plate as he walked in all four of his appearances — Jordan’s only four walks of the game. Ripke will play at Vincennes University next season with the hope of eventually playing at the Division I level.
“Ripke’s a good player,” Jordan said. “Their whole team, they can hit, they’re not a bad team. Our defense made some good plays to keep us in it. It’s just a tough loss.”
Jordan allowed three runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five.
“He threw very well. He did a nice job,” Turner said.
Cody Graf entered with two outs and a runner on third in the seventh and got Pittard to fly out to center.
The Berries had rare pitching depth this season — they had seven arms that Turner felt confident in — but weren’t able to use that to their advantage as much as they’d like in finishing with a 17-10 record. Of course they did have four rainouts in April where they could have possibly added to the win total.
“We had seven pitchers in our starting rotation. That’s always a good thing,” Jordan said. “Our seniors, they were a real good group. Then we also have nine juniors returning next year, so we should be pretty solid next year, too. It’ll be different without these seniors though.”
The Berries will lose pitchers Graf, Connor Looker and Zach Shilts, starting outfielders Luna and Corcoran, second baseman Rozzi and first baseman/DH Luke Vernon to graduation.
Turner was pleased with the season.
“We were a good team; it just didn’t happen for us today,” he said. “We play in a tough conference. You’re not going to go undefeated in our conference. We competed with everybody.
“The majority of our team is back. We have some good players with some potential.”
The Berries will return several contributors including four of their top pitchers in Jordan, Clayton Frye, Clements and Palmer for their senior seasons next year.
Catcher Chris Jones led the third inning off with a would-be double down the right-field line for the Berries but was thrown out at second after getting stuck in the mud during his head-first slide.
Frye hit a one-out double in the fourth about halfway up the chain-link fence in the short porch in right. But Ripke fanned the next two hitters to end the inning, just as he ended the third. He then retired the final seven Berry hitters of the game.