The longer Friday’s baseball game between Lafayette Jeff and Logansport lasted into the chilly night, the more clutch moments Peter Ripke seemed to conjure.
On two separate occasions, the Bronchos’ senior shortstop belted home runs that kept alive Jeff’s hopes of winning its home opener.
But Ripke’s flair for the dramatic couldn’t overcome seven Broncho errors or Logansport’s four-run 11th inning, and the Berries escaped Loeb Stadium with an 8-6 Joe Heath Classic victory.
“We gave them three runs in those first two innings,” said Ripke, who will sign a letter of intent with Vincennes University Saturday morning. “We got a few good plays, but we threw the ball away too many times. That’s really what cost us later in the game.”
Lafayette Jeff (2-3) did little against Logansport starter Connor Looker through six innings. But with the Bronchos trailing 4-1 with one out in the seventh, Looker hit Austin Albrecht with a pitch and walked Bailey Perdue.
Travis Palmer relieved and retired Keaton Hamilton on a pop-up. But Ripke drilled a first-pitch curveball over the left-field wall for a game-tying three-run home run.
“I saw it really well and I just turned on it,” said Ripke, who was 0-for-3 before the blast. “Early in the game, I didn’t wait on my pitches; that’s why I got out in front. That time I waited back.”
Logansport No. 9 hitter Chris Jones laced a three-run double in a four-run top of the 11th against Albrecht, who was in his fifth inning of relief. The Berries (2-0) added another insurance run when the Bronchos committed their final two errors.
Logansport pitched around Ripke with one on and two out in the ninth. Palmer (1-0) challenged him with Bailey Perdue at second and two outs in the 11th. Ripke launched a 2-2 pitch over the left-center field wall to pull the Bronchos within 8-6.
“When he is on, and you can see it in his eyes in the way he approaches everything, he’s about as good a hitter as you’re going to find,” Jeff coach Scott McTagertt said. “… He’s got incredible bat control, and he’s a very dangerous hitter. When you can hit it out with a BBCOR (bat) on this field, you’re hitting the ball hard.”
Reid Pittard blooped a double down the left-field line to bring the tying run to the plate, but Palmer coaxed a comebacker from Joe House. The Bronchos stranded 12 runners overall, including seven in scoring position.
Broncho starter Ethan Smith walked the first two Logansport batters of the game, and both scored. In the second inning, three Jeff errors helped the Berries take a 3-0 lead. But the junior settled down, retiring 11 in a row at one point and allowing only two hits while striking out six in six innings.
“I came back in the dugout the first two innings, and coach Kindler said I really needed to slow down on the curveball, let that pitch control itself,” said Smith, who said he was so anxious to start that he arrived at Loeb 30 minutes earlier than required. “Once that was there, I started throwing my other off-speeds for strikes and I got on a roll.”