The NWOAL baseball finale between Swanton and Delta Monday ended in exciting fashion, as the Bulldogs twice erased deficits to come away with a 7-6 walkoff win. They scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to overtake the Panthers.
Swanton finished the league season at 2-5, while Delta posted a 3-4 mark.
“Whenever we play them it’s a battle,” said Swanton coach Tim McCarthy of the Panthers. “Hats off to them and their staff. It’s always a tight game.”
“Travis Dunning did good enough to win today,” noted Delta coach Damon Mattimore, speaking about his starting pitcher. The HBP (hit by pitch) there in the seventh started it up with them. They turned their lineup over one more time and that was the difference in the game. The big hitters got another chance at us.”
Delta was able to grab the lead back in the top of the sixth off relief pitcher Zach Bloom.
Chris Brick reached on an error to start the frame, then after consecutive outs, Gabe Freeman got a base hit and Jason Beverly singled home a pinch runner to put the Panthers on top 5-4.
The Panthers tacked on an RBI single from Dunning in the top of the seventh which provided them even more of a cushion. However, Swanton answered back in the bottom of the inning.
Jonny Shanks was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, forcing Mattimore to replace Dunning with Robby Arredondo.
Swanton’s Hunter Mix then reached via an infield single, and when Roman Epley bunted in an attempt to move the runners, the ball was thrown away at first as Shanks came home to trim the Panther lead to 6-5. The Dogs would score the winning runs on a Michael Lawniczak double that was misplayed in the outfield long enough for both Mix and Epley to come home.
“We got fortunate with the swinging bunt there with Hunter Mix,” said McCarthy of the seventh inning. “Everyone in the park knew we were gonna bunt and they didn’t handle it the best way. Everyone around here knows that Michael and Gunnar (Oakes) carry us offensively. And Michael came up big with a double.”
It was the Panthers who scored first in the contest, as Swanton starter Noah Johnston hit four straight batters with two out in the top of the first, giving them the 1-0 lead.
“I thought he was good except for the first inning when he hit four guys in a row,” said McCarthy on Johnston’s outing. “Just a little command issues. Had a little of that off and on. But he’s a senior, he battled, and kept us in it.”
The Panther offense got started in the fourth inning with a one-out single by Brick. Colin Rouleau kept the line moving with a base hit of his own, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch.
A balk plated the second Delta run, while Travis Barnes’ RBI single made it 3-0. Barnes would successfully steal second, then he headed for third which forced an errant throw from the Bulldog catcher to increase their lead at 4-0. Johnston averted further damage when he struck out the next two hitters.
Swanton finally dented the scoreboard, and in a big way, after two quick outs in the home half of the fifth.
Walks by Mix and Lawniczak around a base hit from Epley loaded the bases for perhaps the Dogs’ best hitter, Gunnar Oakes.
The senior came through, hammering a ball all the way to the creek running through Memorial Park for a grand slam home run to knot the score.
“We were flatlined in the dugout for the first three, four innings. And Gunnar has been coming up with a big hit all year and he came up with a big one hitting the grand slam. It kind of got some life into us,” said McCarthy.
“He got every bit of it. Credit to him for hitting that,” said Mattimore of the game-changing play.
Oakes was the leading hitter in the game, finishing 1 for 2 with four runs batted in.
Bloom pitched the final two innings for the Dogs to earn the win. Arredondo took the loss.
These two squads could potentially meet again at the same place in the Division III sectional final next Friday. If Delta gets by Liberty Center on Wednesday, they are back at Swanton for the sectional championship.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010