May 3, 2014

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Sophomore catcher Konner Lutz stroked a walk-off three-run homer in the 10th inning Saturday afternoon to highlight a 7-4 Game 1 victory for John A. Logan College over visiting Lake Land.

The Volunteers went on to dismantle the Lakers in Game 2 by the count of 11-1 in eight innings to take the series. The quarterfinal round sweep allows Logan to advance to the semifinal round of the Region 24 tournament next Friday at Rent One Park in Marion. The Vols will probably meet No. 1 seed, Wabash Valley, at noon.

“We were looking to see who was going to blink first in extra innings,” said JALC head coach Jerry Halstead of the opening-game win. “Fortunately, Konner got a ball in his wheelhouse, turned on it and drove it out of the ballpark. You knew it was gone from the moment it left the bat. That’s kind of what we’ve been looking for from him all year.  It was a big-time hit in a clutch situation and it gave us some serious momentum going into the second game.”

Lutz, a lefthanded hitter from Medicine Hat, Canada, was excited to deliver for his teammates.

“I was just looking for a fastball that I could drive up the middle,” he said. “He (Logan Rippy) left it inside and I was able to turn on it. That’s the first walk-off I’ve ever had. It feels great.”

The Vols fell behind 1-0 on an RBI single by Darren Saunders, but bounced back to tie the game when Joba Ferrell doubled and came home to score on a double by Tanner Scott.

Logan extended the lead to 3-1 in the second inning. Lutz was hit by a pitch. John Tolliver reached on an infield single. Zach Ditto doubled home a run and Ferrell followed with a sacrifice fly. The advantage grew to 4-1 in the bottom of the third when Lutz’s sacrifice fly drove in Scott, who had doubled for the second time.

The lead didn’t stand. Lake Land rallied to score two runs in the fourth off Vols’ starter Joey Marciano, and then tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Jon Mendoza.

Marciano left the game with two outs in the eighth inning. He surrendered four runs on seven hits in 7 2/3 innings, walked three and struck out five. Consecutive walks in the fourth led to a pair of runs when Alonzo Ruz followed with a double.

Lakers’ starter, Mitchell Ley, was about as impressive, working into the eighth inning, as well. He gave up four runs on seven hits, walked three, hit three, and struck out five.

Michael Yacko relieved Marciano, recorded the last out in the eighth and then pitched scoreless ball in the ninth and 10th, retiring all seven batters he faced with three strikeouts.

Rippy kept the Vols off the board in the eighth and ninth innings before giving up the blast to Lutz.

Tolliver paced the Logan offense with three hits. Scott and Jamal Fletcher banged out two apiece. Kyle Schneider, Ferrell, Lutz and Ditto accounted for one hit apiece.

In Game 2, the Vols (25-20) scored all the runs freshman starter, Ryan Dunne, would need in the second inning when three crossed the dish.

Fletcher singled. Schneider singled. Lutz bunted them to second and third. Tolliver singled in a run. He then stole second. Ditto singled home both.

Logan then put the game pretty much out of reach in the third at 6-1 when Fletcher hit a solo homer and Lutz powered up for a two-run shot. He had 6 RBIs on the day.

The Vols added a seventh run in the sixth inning on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Ferrell; an eighth run in the seventh on a sac fly by Fletcher; and three additional runs in the eighth highlighted by an RBI single from Culver Plant to close out the game by the 10-run rule.

Dunne earned the win, his second of the spring, both against the Lakers.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my hitters because they put me in a position to be successful,” Dunne said. “I could pitch more to contact with the lead. That made me a lot less tense and the game more fun.”

The freshman still finished with eight strikeouts and allowed only the one run on four hits in his eight innings of work, while walking two, both in the third inning.

Halstead was impressed with what he saw from the righthander.

“I thought Ryan had a very good game against Lake Land there a couple of weeks ago, and we were hoping that he would back that effort up with another one today. He was just outstanding. He was ahead in the counts, had his breaking ball going, and pitched out of a couple of jams,” Halstead said. “Ryan did a heck of a job for us.”

Halstead said he hopes the fine play of his ballclub Saturday carries over to the next round of the tourney.

“Hopefully, we’ve settled in on a lineup now,” he said. “We made a move here and there defensively, which kind of changed the scenario (defensively). The bottom line, though, is that our pitchers have to throw strikes. Michael Yacko came in after Joey in Game 1 and threw strikes. That’s what we need to have from our pitchers. If we can keep our walks down and play baseball like we are capable, we’ve got a chance to win more games in the tournament. What we can’t do is give teams like Wabash Valley extra chances and expect to win.”