CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Logan baseball coach Kevin Gertz rarely worried about complacency setting in for the Wildcats despite them entering the 2022 season as defending Class AA champion.
Instead, Gertz sang the praises of his squad’s work ethic and leadership, noting that the day after Logan garnered the 2021 championship, the majority of the roster was lifting weights in an effort to bulk up for a repeat run.
“I have some special kids and nobody works harder than my team does,” Gertz said.
That work paid off in just the fashion Gertz was hoping it would, with Logan scoring five first-inning runs and adding three more late to regain its comfortable lead in an 11-6 victory over Fairmont Senior in Saturday’s Class AA final at Appalachian Power Park.
It marks the eighth baseball championship for the Wildcats (29-9), who improved to 8-2 all-time in title games and claimed the program’s second repeat championship, with the 2000-2001 seasons being the other occasion.
A five-run first helped set the tone in this one. It featured the first of Dawson Maynard’s three hits — a ground rule double to center that scored leadoff batter Korbin Bostic, who had been hit by a pitch and advanced to third on the first of three Fairmont Senior (22-10) errors that inning.
After Jack Ramey’s bunt single, Garrett Williamson sent a chopper to third that was thrown away, with Maynard scoring on the play for a 2-0 lead. Ramey stole third and scored seconds after when the throw to the hot corner sailed into left field.
Konner Lowe followed with a run-scoring single and a groundout to second from Jared Burnette brought in Lowe for the final run of the frame and a 5-0 edge.
“It relaxes you a lot,” Maynard said of the early five-run lead. “It puts pressure on the either team and makes them get a little bit of jitters.”
Miscues on the part of the Wildcats led to Fairmont Senior plating its first run in the second, as consecutive errors allowed Gavin Blair to score after he drew a base-on-balls to start the inning.
(Postgame “Round of Sound”)
The deficit didn’t stay four for long, as the Wildcats immediately answered with a pair of runs in the home half of the second. Maynard belted a one-out solo home run to left that made it 6-1 and marked the second time in as many at bats he barreled a ball 300-plus feet.
“I was sitting off speed and he threw me three straight curves,” Maynard said. “I fouled the first two off and the third one, I had the right approach and hit it out of here.”
Later in the second, Williamson singled to center to score McCormick Ilderton, who had come on to run for Ramey after he drew a walk.
The 7-1 lead was intact until the fourth when the Polar Bears’ Evan Dennison led off with a double and scored on a Samuel Viani infield single that led to a throwing error.
Logan, however, quickly regained its six-run lead courtesy of Williamson’s single that allowed Maynard to score in the home half of the fourth.
“There’s no easy outs with that team. When your four man is laying down a bunt, it’s hard to judge what they’re going to do,” Polar Bears’ head coach David Ricer said. “You can’t say, ‘OK, make the shift this way,’ because if there’s a runner on, they’re going to put the ball down. That’s a dangerous lineup one through nine and you can’t take anything away from them.”
Yet just as it appeared the Wildcats were in complete control, the Polar Bears put together a rally to make things interesting.
Singles from Logan Canfield and Dominic Viani put a pair of runners on, and Dennison brought both home with a two-out double to right. Gavin Blair followed with a sharp single that scored Dennison and trimmed the FSHS deficit to 8-5.
“He had a complete change of attitude this year. He was going to put the ball in play,” Ricer said of Dennison. “If it went over the fence, it went over and if it was a single or double, he was happy with it. He wanted to do what Evan was doing and he had a good time.”
That marked the end of the outing for Wildcats’ starting pitcher Ryan Roberts, who was relieved by Lowe. Samuel Viani greeted Lowe with a sharp grounder to third that was handled well by Maynard, who fired to first for the final out.
Although Maynard sent a fly ball to deep center with the bases loaded and two outs in the home half of the fifth, Dennison ran it down to keep his team’s deficit at three.
“I thought they were going to do it and the kids thought they were going to do it,” Ricer said of the Polar Bears’ rally. “We kept chipping away. We were positive. They never quit and that’s the big thing.”
Logan, however, doubled its lead in its final at bat to regain complete control.
Ramey and Williamson singled to start the inning and both scored on Lowe’s double to left. Lowe came home with the final run on a double steal of sorts after Aiden Slack drew a walk and immediately took off for second, resulting in him being thrown out in a rundown.
Dennison’s two-out double brought Gunner Riley home in the seventh for what proved to be the game’s final run.
In the moments after the game went final, Gertz said his team was playing for a more important cause than repeating as state champion. Jarron Glick, a key member of last season’s state championship team, was unable to attend school and missed out on playing basketball and baseball this season after having a brain tumor removed over the summer.
“This whole season was for No. 1 Jarron Glick,” Gertz said. “He probably would’ve started this game on the hill. Just about a month after we won the title last year, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. I get choked up a little bit.
“But he went through hell and he was back in our dugout today. We’re so proud of him and we love that kid. Every time we broke the huddle, it was, ‘one, two, three, for 1.’ Winning a baseball state title is great, but winning at life is much better, and that kid has won at life and has a chance to relive his life.”
Maynard finished 3-for-4 with three runs and a pair of RBIs, while Williamson had three hits, drove in three runs and scored twice.
“In my opinion, Dawson’s the best player in this state in any class,” Gertz said. “That’s me and I’m biased. But he homers, he hits a ground rule double, he singles, he hits one off the end of the bat and nearly hit a grand slam. He can play and he’s a heck of a pitcher.”
Lowe had two hits and drove in three runs, giving him eight RBIs over a pair of state tournament contests.
“We executed early,” Gertz said. “That’s what we do. Can our kids hit? Sure they can. Do they like bunting? No. But we’ve won eight state titles, because we can bunt and put pressure on people. If people make the plays, OK, maybe we don’t do it. But when we start going around the bases like crazy, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to hit up five and six runs.”
Roberts picked up the win after allowing five runs, three of which were earned, in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one. Lowe tossed the final 2 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits.
Dennison had three hits and drove in three runs, while Dominic Viani added two hits as the duo combined for half of the Polar Bears’ 10 knocks.
Samuel Viani took the loss after allowing five runs, including three earned, without recording an out. Dominic Viani took over for him and surrendered six runs on 10 hits in five innings, before Riley recorded three outs without allowing a run.
Class AA all-tournament team
Konner Lowe, Logan
Ryan Roberts, Logan
Dawson Maynard, Logan
Korbin Bostic, Logan
Evan Dennison, Fairmont Senior
Gunner Riley, Fairmont Senior
Mayson Jack, Fairmont Senior
Brayden Thomason, RCB
Luke Sperry, RCB
Tyler Mackey, Shady Spring