Pickering pitches PCA to first place

Published 11:23 am Tuesday, April 10, 2012

There was absolutely no pressure on Logan Pickering as he took the mound for his first varsity start Monday.

Just the season on the line. Pitching against a first-place team. And only 10 minutes to prepare.

Pickering, selected to start a must-win game for Porters Chapel between games of a doubleheader, looked like he’d had weeks to get ready. The freshman right-hander allowed just one unearned run in a complete-game victory, leading the Eagles to an 8-1 victory over Newton Academy.

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“It was a little unexpected. I thought they were going to throw (senior) Sam Staggs or somebody like that, but I guess not. I’ve been looking forward to it, hoping I could get my shot to earn a spot out here. So I was ready for it,” Pickering said.

The win gave a jolt to PCA’s playoff hopes, which seemed all but dead after it lost 3-1 in game one of the doubleheader. The split essentially created a three-way tie for first place in District 5-A between PCA (10-5, 10-2 in district play), Newton (12-5-1, 6-2) and Russell Christian (10-7, 6-2).

All three frontrunners split their season series with each other. Newton still has four district games remaining this week against Rebul and Veritas, while Russell has four with Park Place and Veritas. PCA has completed its district schedule and is in first place — for now — based on its win total.

The top two teams in the district will advance to the playoffs.

“It’s still going to be a toss-up. They’ve still got some games to play in conference. It’ll be the guys in the bottom part of the standings, but they used their best two pitchers today. When you start throwing No. 4 and 5 and 6, anything can happen,” PCA coach Wade Patrick said. “We still need some help. We’re not in for sure.”

If PCA’s streak of consecutive playoff appearances reaches a 14th season, it can thank Pickering. He showed no nervousness while frustrating Newton’s hitters all afternoon.

Pickering gave up only one hit in the first four innings and didn’t walk a batter until the seventh. He hardly overpowered the Generals — he only had one strikeout — but got them to hit a barrage of pop-ups and easy grounders.

As if his pitching wasn’t enough, Pickering also contributed at the plate. He went 2-for-3 and drove in the Eagles’ first run with a base hit in the second inning. Not bad for a guy who, previously this season, had had four at-bats and pitched a total of four innings on the varsity level.

Patrick said he made the decision to go with Pickering because of a nagging injury to the team’s normal No. 2 starter, Sam Kirk.

“That’s basically the third or fourth time this year that he’s thrown. Junior high or high school,” Patrick said of Pickering. “I was hoping for three (innings), and if we could’ve gotten four out of him, even better. He just kept going and going.”

After Pickering’s RBI single gave PCA the lead, his teammates helped add to it.

Staggs and Tate Chapman delivered back-to-back two-out, RBI hits in the third inning to make it 3-0. Jonah Masterson ripped an RBI single up the middle in the fourth, and Staggs and Chapman came through again in the fifth with hits that started a three-run rally.

Staggs finished the game 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Chapman was 4-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and two runs scored. PCA had 12 hits in game two of the doubleheader, after getting just two in game one.

“It could have been easy to just say we’re going to fold it up and go home for the summer,” Patrick said. “But they didn’t. They fought back and swung the bats. I was real proud of them.”