Zach attack carries Logan
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- One inning after putting his Logan team ahead of St. Albans with a towering home run, Zach Minnick was summoned to the mound to make that shot hold up.
The 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore finished the assignment, giving the Wildcats a 4-2 victory over St. Albans and the Class AAA Region 4 Section 2 title at a wet but playable Loftis Field. The start of the game was delayed 43 minutes by extra field preparation.
Logan (20-9) advances to the region semifinal Monday at Winfield.
Minnick commanded enough respect to get intentionally walked in the first, fourth and sixth innings. In the third, Red Dragons starter Dustin Turley pitched to him and ran the count to 2-2 with two outs and SA ahead 1-0.
On the next pitch, Turley made a mistake and Minnick launched it over the tall fence in deep left-center field. That gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead, which they did not relinquish.
"I saw the second pitch of the at-bat. It was a slider and he hung it, and I barely missed it and pulled it foul," Minnick said. "Later in the at-bat he threw that same exact pitch and I was looking for it, and he put it exactly where I wanted it. It was eye level, it was already elevated. All I had to do was make contact."
As SA coach Rick Whitman tells it, "We had two strikes on him, so it was supposed to be a slider in the dirt. We were trying to get him to maybe roll over and get himself out, but it wasn't in the dirt and it ended up over the fence."
Benji Adkins gave Logan another run in the third with an RBI single. In the fourth, Chase Preston doubled in run - again, with two out - to pad the lead to 4-1. That advantage was threatened in the bottom of the fourth.
That's when St. Albans' Joey Doddrill walked, followed by a Bobby Grishaber single and an Austin Harless walk to load the bases with one out.
Logan starter Joey Morrison had hurled a six-inning shutout in a 10-0 win over St. Albans earlier in the sectional, but that didn't matter this time around. Coach Roger Gertz came for the ball, and Minnick walked the 60 feet, 6 inches from his catcher position to the mound.
The next batter seemed to set the tone for Minnick's performance. Taylor Braley hit a high chopper to the mound and Minnick thought about getting the force at home before throwing to first and conceding a run. He then struck out Lucas Carfagna to end the threat.
"There's a big lip right in front of home plate and the ball went straight up in the air," Gertz said. "[Minnick] had the presence to go to first with it instead of forcing it at the plate. It would have been a bang-bang play at the plate, had we gone there. We were up 4-1 at the time and he made a good choice there."
That 4-2 score stuck the rest of the way, as Minnick retired 11 of 12 batters with a two-out error in the seventh providing the only blemish. That gave him the win on the mound, to complement that go-ahead homer.
" 'Z' is versatile. He's one of the best pitchers around, outstanding shortstop, outstanding catcher and he is just an excellent hitter," Gertz said.
The Dragons pushed across their first run in their first two batters of the game. Phoenix Shrewsbury doubled to lead off and went to third on a passed ball. Turley then knocked him in with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.
Morrison walked four in his 31/3 innings, but the Dragons managed just three hits. A double play killed a rally in the third inning.
St. Albans finished 21-11, knocking out Nitro and winning at Logan to force Thursday's winner-take-all bout. The Dragons were emotional in defeat, but Whitman enjoyed watching them put together a solid season.
"My kids had a great season; there's nothing for them to hang their heads about," Whitman said. "This game we played five seniors, four of them had never played varsity baseball before. They are typical program guys - they worked hard and when they got their opportunity they took advantage of it.
"They earned a lot of respect from me."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.