May 7, 2016

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Logan Kaletha blasted two home runs, including a grand slam, and sophomore Matthias Dietz pitched yet another complete game to lead the John A. Logan College baseball team to an 11-2 win Saturday over Lake Land in Region 24 quarterfinal round action.

The Lakers scored five runs in the third inning of the nightcap and hung onto a 6-4 win over the Volunteers to force a third and deciding game at noon today in Carterville.

The nation’s ninth-ranked Vols (44-10) are the No. 1 seed in the tournament, while Lake Land (14-32) is the No. 8 seed.

However, for the first time all season, Logan is saddled with serious injury issues. Three of its nine starters on the offensive side were unable to begin or finish games Saturday.

Leading hitter and starting catcher Marshall Gilbert dislocated his right shoulder when sliding headfirst into home plate with a run in the first inning of the opener and did not return.

Back-up catcher and designated hitter, Colin Butkiewicz, was already unavailable due to a leg injury sustained the previous week. That meant that third teamer, Colton Bryant, had to be activated from the redshirt list and was asked to catch both games.

Yet another key contributor, left fielder Tyler Horchem, had to leave early in Game 2 after aggravating a groin injury.

A fourth starter, outfielder Jeff Hahs, is limited in his movement due to a hamstring pull.

“We haven’t had any devastating injuries all spring – until now,” said JALC head coach Jerry Halstead. “I’ve been around this game a long time. It happens. Bad weather and injuries can kill a great season. Today, we didn’t play championship ball. Tomorrow, we have to find a way or we’ll be done for the year.”

Halstead said the offense, led by Kaletha, did its job in the opener. In addition to Kaletha’s three hits and five RBIs, Hahs homered and accounted for three hits. Horchem had two hits and drove in three. He would leave the game early in Game 2.

Dietz improved to 12-1 with the win. He surrendered two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out eight and walked one.

“Dietz wasn’t that sharp today, but he toughed it out,” Halstead said.

Peyton Cypress picked up the loss for Logan in Game 2 in relief of starter Bobby Pennington. The latter worked 2 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on two hit, which included a two-run homer, but also walked two. Cypress permitted four runs on five hits in  1 2/3 innings with three walks.

Zeigler-Royalton High School grad, sophomore Gabe Jelley, was phenomenal. He entered the game in the fifth inning for Cypress with one on and nobody out and proceeded to hurl five shutout frames with 10 strikeouts against only two walks. He scattered four hits.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more from Gabe than what he gave us,” Halstead said. “He put a lot of zeroes up there and kept us in the game.”

As for sophomores Pennington and Choate, Halstead was perturbed.

“We gave them the game,” he said. “All we needed was a solid effort against their ace and we didn’t get it. Our pitching was god awful early on.”

Aside from Jelley’s heroics, Tyler Robertson and Cody Birdsong managed two hits each. Hahs, Bryant, Doug Parks, Horchem, and Aaron Fuller contributed one apiece. The Vols bounced into four double plays, including one in the ninth to end the game.

Logan hosts Lake Land at noon today for the right to advance to the Region 24 semifinals next weekend in Carterville.