Ott paints masterpiece for Warriors

SCRANTON — Every pitch Logan Ott threw Monday was like a painter’s brush stroke. Each was done with a purpose and with conviction.

By the time he was done, the Montoursville sophomore left-hander had painted a masterpiece. It was a big part of the reason the Warriors find themselves in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006. They’ll play District 3 runner-up Oley Valley at Pottsville High School on Thursday at 3 p.m.

Of all the gems Ott has thrown this year, his five innings of no-hit baseball against Lakeland on Monday in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs may have been his best. He took a lineup collectively hitting better than .320 with a Division I recruit in the middle of it and dispatched it as if it was nothing more than a nuisance.

“That was probably the best he’s been,” Montoursville right fielder Ryan Kessler said after Monday’s game. “When they don’t hit the ball out of the infield, that’s fun to watch. And he does it every time, so it’s kind of normal now.”

Monday was the second scoreless performance of the postseason for Ott. He threw a five-inning no-hitter at Mount Carmel during the District 4 tournament.

But this was just a little different. Ott dominated a Lakeland team which had just one loss this season and scored double-digit runs in nine of its first 19 games. He didn’t nibble and he didn’t junk ball the Chiefs to death.

Instead, he challenged them with a mid-80s fastball which missed bats with regularity. Ott was a orchestra hitting every note with fervor and precision. And if Ott was the orchestra, pitching coach Mike Mussina was the maestro conducting the harmonious music.

After striking out three in the first inning. Ott returned to the dugout to tell Mussina his two-seam fastball was on point. The two then worked a gameplan which had Ott challenge a lethal offense with a mix of two different fastballs.

He controlled the outside corner of the plate by starting his two-seam fastball in the center of the plate and letting it run away from right-handed hitters. He controlled the upper part of the strikezone with a four-seam fastball which was firm and fierce.

Seven of his nine strikeouts came on fastballs. Four of those seven came on elevated fastballs. Only twice did he go to his breaking ball for a strikeout, and the first time it resulted in a dropped third strike allowing the batter to reach base. The second time, he froze Lakeland’s Nick Bertholf on an 0-2 pitch which buckled more legs than an Allen Iverson crossover.

“I came in in the first inning and said my two-seam was on and we kept going with it,” Ott said. “I didn’t throw too many curveballs. I tried to mix it in a couple times, but it was mostly fastballs that game with two seams.”

He punctuated his gameplan emphatically against Lakeland No. 3 hitter Matt Hayes, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound first baseman who is committed to play at Division I Longwood University next season. Against the best hitter in the Chiefs’ lineup, Ott’s plan didn’t waver.

Instead, there seemed to be a little extra something on the ball. When it came time to put away Hayes, Ott elevated a fastball and got Hayes to swing through it. In his second at-bat, Ott threw a beauty of a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner which Hayes swung through.

“He was trying to pull the ball and was pulling off of it,” Ott said. “And if you see he’s doing that the first time, you have to come with it again because if you come with a curveball, he’s going to do what he does.”

Ott and Mussina worked cooperatively Monday. Mussina, he of 270 MLB wins and a future spot in Cooperstown, recognized how Ott could efficiently and effectively carve up the Lakeland offense. Ott executed those pitch calls with a deft accuracy which belies his age.

“Mike has the God-given ability to see someone swing and say he’s not going to hit an outside pitch, or he’s not going to hit a curveball, or he won’t hit it up high,” Montoursville assistant coach Craig Weaver Jr. said. “When the kids put it where he calls the pitch, it’s to their advantage. And Logan has the ability to do that.”

Montoursville feels it has the advantage over just about anyone it plays with Ott on the mound. Monday, in the program’s first state playoff game since 2010, he showed why.

His plan wasn’t overly complicated, he just executed it to near perfection. It was quite the masterpiece.

Mitch Rupert can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Mitch_Rupert.