by Beau Wicker
Logansport’s baseball team fought and clawed and scratched, and the Berries played well for the most part against visiting Huntington North on Wednesday.
The Berries certainly had their opportunities at a second straight North Central Conference sweep.
But a crucial error in the eighth inning — their first of the game — opened up the floodgates for a big inning for the Vikings. And the Vikes were able to hold off a Berry rally in the bottom of the frame on hold on for a wild 7-5 victory in eight innings.
Huntington North (12-5, 6-2 NCC) stayed atop the league standings tied with Kokomo, while the Berries (12-6, 4-4) dropped to two games back with six left to play.
Cody Graf was on the hill for the Berries in the eighth inning. The Berry closer had gotten out of jams in the sixth and the seventh innings. There was one on with two outs in the eighth when No. 8 hitter Mitch Hughes came up with a single to keep the inning alive for the Vikings.
With runners on first and second, Graf’s pickoff throw to first sailed deep into foul territory, as no one was covering at first, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
“We didn’t execute a play that we were hoping to execute,” Logan coach Jim Turner said. “We had a play on we use occasionally when we really felt like it was a situation that required something like that.”
The play had the potential of getting the Berries out of another two-out jam.
“That’s a play we use only maybe a couple of times per year for that specific reason. It just didn’t happen,” Turner said.
The floodgates opened from there, as a walk to the No. 9 hitter set up a three-run home run by Drew Schnitz, and all of a sudden it was a 7-3 game.
“The game wasn’t won or lost there. We had our opportunities,” Turner said.
The Berries’ offense was efficient — they scored five runs on five hits — but the Logan coach is certainly looking for more hitting from his squad.
“Still too many pop-ups. Not watching the ball, lots of swinging and missing on curveballs down in the dirt and things. They’re just not quite watching the ball well,” he said.
Connor Looker got the start on the mound and for the second straight start struggled with his control a bit. Two of the three runs he allowed in 3 1/3 innings were started by walks. Zach Shilts pitched two scoreless innings of relief. Graf (2-1) pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief.
The Berries battled back in the bottom of the eighth. Nito Luna and Clayton Frye scored on the same wild pitch after a throwing error back to the pitcher. The tying run was on first base with two outs when Chris Jones flied out to right to end the game.
The Berries had the winning run on third base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Travis Palmer flew out to left to end that threat.
Cory Rozzi had an RBI single that tied the game at 3-all in the fifth. After an overthrow at the plate, Rozzi was thrown out at third for the final out of the inning. He appeared to throw his helmet down and was ejected from the game by the umpire. The Berries’ starting second baseman will have to miss game one of Saturday’s doubleheader with New Castle.
“It is what it is,” Turner said.
When asked if he agreed with the ejection, Turner said, “I’m not going to comment.”
The Berries plated a run in the fourth on a fielder’s choice RBI by Dustin Clements to cut the lead to 3-2.
Clayton Frye hit a home run over the trees in right in the second inning to make it a 1-1 game. He went 2-for-4 with three runs scored to lead the Berries at the plate.
The Berries made several defensive gems — they had an 8-3-4 double play on a cutoff play on a sac fly in the first inning, a diving stop at third and long throw by Clements to end the third, two pickoffs by the pitchers and a caught stealing by Jones. But the one error they committed was costly.
Braydin Stell (2-1) got the win in 3 2/3 innings of relief for the Vikings. Starter Matt Hogan allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Next up for the Berries is New Castle on Saturday for a doubleheader at Jim Turner Field. The Trojans feature senior superstar Trey Ball, a University of Texas signee who is expected to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft. The left-hander throws in the mid 90s and hits with a wood bat to further challenge himself against high school opponents. Wherever Ball plays, there’s a chance there will be a crowd of college and Major League scouts.
“That’s exciting. That’s exciting for all our players to play against somebody of that caliber and a team that good,” Turner said. “There will be a ton of people there to watch him and therefore, you get noticed.”
Turner added Ball will likely get the start on the mound in game two. Game one starts at 11 a.m.
“They’ve got two really good pitchers,” Turner said.
For the rest of our prep roundup, see our Thursday print edition.