LAFAYETTE — They showed how good they can be in how they ended a long sectional drought this season.
But on Saturday they showed why they hovered around .500 for most of this season with some inconsistent play in a regional loss to Fort Wayne Carroll.
The magic ran out on the Logansport Berries’ tournament run as they were defeated by the Chargers 12-4 in a Class 4A Regional game at Loeb Stadium.
The Berries (17-16) entered IHSAA Tournament play with a .500 record but were able to end a 17-year sectional drought with a pair of thrilling comeback victories last weekend. But they found out the hard way on Saturday that you don’t want to have to go to that well too often, especially when facing a future Division-I pitcher in Carroll junior Jake Shirk, a Wright State recruit.
The Berries put together a good offensive game and stayed hot at the plate, manufacturing four runs on eight hits and drawing five walks, but they left 11 runners stranded for the game.
But it was pitching and especially defense that let them down. An ugly seven-run third inning put them in a 10-2 hole. In the inning there were only three hits — one was a bunt hit — but there were three hit batsmen, a walk and two errors and the Chargers (23-9) were too good to give so many gifts away.
Senior left-hander Jacob Kaley, who was the Berries’ go-to ace this season, got the start and his stuff was sharper than it was a week ago, but he still ran into problems and had a short outing, lasting only 1 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits and one walk.
Jacob Cox relieved in the second and came in with the bases loaded and one out. He induced a 1-2-3 double play as the Berries got out of the inning averting any further damage and trailing 3-2.
But Cox, who pitched seven sterling innings in relief in a sectional win over Lafayette Jeff last week, ran into problems of his own in the third. He hit the first two batters. A ground ball to third on a potential double play ball was dropped to load the bases with no outs. A walk brought in a run. A two-run single made it 6-2. A bunt single made it 7-2. The next batter bunted and the throw to third was thrown away to allow another run to score. Mike Meadows was brought in to pitch and he nearly got out of the jam but allowed a two-out, two run single that made it 10-2 and the Berries found themselves with a steep hill to climb going up against a future D-I pitcher.
The Chargers added two unearned runs in the fifth to take a 12-3 lead. It was too much for the Berries to overcome against Shirk (9-0), who allowed four runs (two earned) on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. Geoffrey Cameron Niedens got the final out of the game with two runners on in the seventh.
Meadows’ pitching was a bright spot for the Berries. The sophomore right-hander allowed two runs (none earned) on four hits, one walk and one hit batsman, striking out five in five innings of relief.
The Berries took a brief 2-1 lead in the first. Tucker Platt singled and stole second. Meadows drew a one-out walk. Wil Bennett grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners and then stole second. Drake McLochlin hit a hard bouncer up the middle that dropped in for an error and allowed two runs to score as the Berries took the lead.
But they didn’t cross home plate again until the fourth. Ethan Denny led off with a double off the wall in right on a ball that might have went yard if not for the wind blowing in. Kaley followed with a one-out infield single to put runners at the corners. Platt came through with an RBI single to make it 10-3. But Shirk got a strikeout and groundout to get out of the inning.
The Berries plated another run in the fifth. Bennett led off with a double. Gavin Smith followed with a one-out RBI single to center to make it a 12-4 game.
Bennett finished with two hits and two runs scored. Platt had two hits, an RBI and run scored. Denny had two hits and a run scored. Smith and Kaley had the Berries’ other hits.
“I can’t fault our offense at all. It would have been nice to have got a couple timely hits but we just didn’t,” Logan coach Jim Turner said. “They battled and never gave up. Unfortunately we just needed one more, one more time for them to do that [get a big comeback] but we dug too big of hole too soon.”
The Berries were outhit just 10-8 but committed five errors to allow seven unearned runs to go with the 11 base runners stranded.
Turner credited the Chargers and the amount of pressure they put on the Berries’ defense.
“Nothing routine but certainly we would have had to have made those plays. They put the pressure on us the whole time. They had base runners on constantly. They were able to have a little bit of a running game, bunting game. They had the upper hand from the get-go once we got down. We can’t play that way when we’re down. That’s what I meant the other day when I stopped coaching because there’s no strategy involved when you’re eight runs down. You just have to hope for big innings,” he said.
Hamilton Southeastern defeated Carroll 6-1 in the regional final Saturday night to advance to the northern semistate game. The Royals will play Monday's winner between Lake Central and Mishawaka next Saturday at Kokomo or Plymouth.
The Berries will return five starters next year but will graduate six seniors — Platt, Bennett, Kaley, Cox, Jackson Kraud and Carson Loposser.
The seniors leave behind a legacy of adding to Logansport’s long tradition of tournament success in baseball in winning a Class 4A sectional title.
“I’m proud of every one of them,” Turner said. “They really worked hard. Talk about a group of kids that never give you a problem. Oh my goodness, they’re just wonderful young men.”