March 26, 2016

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Freshman infielder Cody Birdsong stroked a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday to rally the John A. Logan College baseball team past Lincoln Trail College of Robinson, 11-10.

With the victory, the Volunteers improve to 8-1 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference and to 21-6 overall.

“It felt great to get the hit in that situation,” Birdsong said. “I was looking for a pitch up in the zone and was fortunate enough to get one. I was pretty pumped when I got to first base. I don’t know who was happier…Coach Soup (assistant coach Kyle Surprenant) or me.

“This is a huge win,” Birdsong added. “We haven’t lost a series yet in conference play and we didn’t want to start today. Winning this series today is a big deal. We kept battling back and finally got the job done.”

Vols head coach Jerry Halstead was complimentary of the freshman.

“It’s not easy coming off the bench and doing what he did. But Cody had the presence to step into one when we needed it most.”

Trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning, the Vols sent 11 men to the plate and scored five runs. Freshman catcher Marshall Gilbert slugged a solo homer to spark the offense. Tyler Horchem bunted for a single. Jeff Hahs singled. Ben Smith then reached on an error by the first baseman to load the bases. Colin Butkiewicz delivered a sacrifice fly and Landen Harris followed with a three-run homer.

Undaunted, the Statesmen bounced back to score four runs in the top of the fifth to take a 6-5 lead, driving starting pitcher Jerred Quartier from the game.

The Vols tied the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the frame when Horchem doubled and scored on a double-play grounder off the bat of Smith.

Logan then took the lead at 8-6 in the bottom of the sixth as Logan Kaletha muscled up and drove a pitch over the fence in center for a solo blast and Doug Parks doubled and scored on Gilbert’s two-bagger.

Again, Lincoln Trail would battle back, knocking reliever Peyton Cypress from the game in the seventh. Gabe Jelley finally put out the fire, but not until four runs crossed the plate to give the Statesmen a 10-8 lead.

The Vols got one of those runs back in the bottom of the seventh as Hahs doubled and scored on a throwing error by the pitcher. That set the stage for Birdsong’s dramatics in the eighth.

Jelley, a sophomore from Zeigler, finished up the game to earn the win, tossing scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth with a little help from Gilbert, who threw out a pinchrunner in the ninth.

“Anytime you get a chance to throw in a big conference game like this, it feels great,” Jelley said. “Holding a one-run lead is kind of nerve-wracking. I was trying to throw strikes, but was struggling with my command. Thankfully, I had some teammates bail me out.”

Halstead said the pitching and defense were not up to par Saturday, but fortunately for the team, the hitters picked up the slack.

“There were a lot of punches thrown today. We were lucky enough to be the last one standing. We’ve been wondering when our pitching was going to have one of these days where we would struggle and we certainly had it today. But I can’t say enough for the offense. We kept battling and found a way to win this one.”

Hahs and Horchem paced the Vols with four hits each in five at bats. Gilbert banged out three hits, including a homer and double with two runs batted in. Kaletha finished 3-5 with a homer and two singles.

Harris (home run), Birdsong and Parks (double) added one hit each. Butkiewicz did not have a hit, but drove in a run with the sac fly.

Logan plays a single game at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Shawnee and will then square off with arch-rival, Wabash Valley, in a key three-game series Thursday and Saturday. The Vols host the Thursday game at 3 and will play two in Mount Carmel Saturday beginning at noon.