Of course an unbelievable sectional title drought needed to end with an unbelievable finish. Down by four runs heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Swanton baseball team rallied with five runs – with four coming after two outs had been recorded – to stun rival Delta 9-8 Friday in a classic baseball game that will be retold for years at Swanton’s Memorial Park.
“It’s always a battle when we play Delta,” Swanton coach Tim McCarthy said after the win. “It doesn’t matter what the records are or anything else. It’s always back-and-forth.”
The win advances the Bulldogs to the Division III district tournament, a place they haven’t been in 41 years.
“These kids have been working hard,” continued McCarthy about snapping the long drought. “We’ve had our ups and downs and have been inconsistent at times. It just seems that when it matters in clutch situations we come up.”
The Bulldogs began to rally of Robby Arredondo, who had come on to pitch in relief of Travis Dunning. He walked Gunnar Oakes to begin the inning, then Zach Zawodni followed with a simple single to left. When the leftfielder had trouble with the ball, Oakes went to third on the play.
Zawodni attempted to follow and headed for second, but he was thrown out at the base. Josh Adcock stepped to the plate and rolled a ball to shortstop that plated Oakes, but it also was the second out of the inning.
Still showing life, Noah Johnston drew a walk and Zach Bloom singled to keep the inning alive. Delta still wasn’t worried, even as pinch hitter Duyane Goings stepped up and singled down the left field line to score a run.
“It’s always a battle between these two schools,” said Delta coach Damon Mattimore. “Credit to them, they put the ball in play. They got it done, credit to them.”
A walk to Hunter Mix signaled the end of the day for Arredondo on the mound, and Roman Epley greeted the new pitcher Kayden Kurth with a two-run single which tied the game.
“Offensively, the bats came alive when they had to,” added McCarthy.
With runners at first and second, Michael Lawniczak was intentionally walked to load the bases and force a play at any base. Before any play could be made, Oakes drew a bookend walk to force in the winning run.
Adcock put Swanton ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the first with a two-out single. The game stayed that way until the top of the third when the Panthers ran the bases well to tie the game, then take the lead. In the third, Gabe Freeman drew a lead-off walk and eventually scored. Later in the inning, Justin Anderson singled and scored on an error to tie the game.
In the fourth, A hit batter and two more Swanton errors played into Delta scoring. Travis Barnes was hit by a pitch with one out, then Freeman reached on an error. Both advanced on a double steal, with the Swanton throw going to second base. When the throw sailed into the outfield, Barnes scored on the play and Freeman went to third. Freeman was able to score on a wild pitch and the lead grew to 4-2.
“That’s our gameplan,” Mattimore said of running the bases. “I think we broke the school record for stolen bases again this year. That’s the third-straight year we’ve done that.”
Swanton was able to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth on an Adcock sac fly and a single by Ben Burke.
Delta jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the sixth thanks to two singles, a fielder’s choice that put another runner on base, an error on a rundown and a two-run single by Anderson.
“Defensively, we knew that if we didn’t field it, we were going to be in trouble,” said McCarthy. “Honestly, we had no business winning the game. Our kids just battled and refused to go down.”
Adcock finished with a hit and drove in four to lead the Bulldogs. Bloom added a single and a double. Bloom also picked up the win in relief.
Anderson had a pair of hits and drove in three runs for Delta. Tristen Saeger had a pair of singles and a double and drove in a run.
Swanton plays Archbold in the second game of a district doubleheader at 4 p.m. Thursday in Defiance. The opening game features Fairview and Tinora.
Reach Randy Roberts at [email protected]