LIBERTY CENTER – Swanton capped off its undefeated ACME baseball season in exciting fashion Tuesday, using a four-run sixth to erase a 7-3 deficit for a 9-7 victory in eight innings on the road at Liberty Center.
“It’s not like we haven’t done it before,” said Swanton summer coach Chris Lake, referring to his team’s ability to come back. “I am confident in them. I know they are gonna go out there and make plays. We were a little lethargic at first. I think you’re seeing the effect of year-round sports. Basketball, lifting, running – all the stuff that these kids do.”
The triumph gives the Bulldogs a perfect 9-0 record in ACME play. They are electing not to take part in the state tournament.
“I think it’s a lot of fun,” said Lake of his team finishing undefeated. “Winning is fun. That’s what keeps you coming back. I wish we could have gotten a few more games in. We had a few rainouts here this year. But yeah, to go undefeated is awesome. I think it sets the stage well as they head into the offseason. They’ve got something to hang their hat on.”
It was Liberty Center who overcame a deficit first as they scored three in the bottom of the second to claim a 3-2 advantage. This came after Swanton’s Billy Nowakowski hammered a double that scored both Tommy Chonko and Carter Swank in the top of the inning to put them on top.
For the Tigers, they collected five straight hits and Cole Zeiter, Jacob Pogan, and Brendan Morris each had RBIs in their half of the second. They went on to add a run each in both the third and fourth innings, then two in the fifth, extending the margin at 7-3.
Roman Epley got the Dogs started in the top of the sixth with a leadoff double. Zach Bloom then reached on an error. He stole second, while Epley waited for the throw and came home which made it a three run game.
After Chonko also reached on an error, Swanton got a RBI single from Swank to trim the Tiger lead to 7-5 with still nobody out. LC did get Derek Floyd to lineout, however, Nowakowski responded with a two-run single tying the game.
“He needed that,” said Lake of Nowakowski who went 2 for 4 on the night with five RBIs. “Billy had been kind of slumping a little bit, but he’s always got that potential. I was always hanging around during the JV (junior varsity) season and I knew he could hit the ball hard. His numbers have been down a little bit this summer but it’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, and he just got into the ball a few times and drove runs in. He is a big reason that we won this ball game.”
Although that was all the runs they would get in the frame, Swanton’s Hunter Mix, who came on in relief and went the final 3 1/3 innings, kept the Tiger offense at bay to force extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Chonko led off with a base on balls, then Swank took advantage of another LC error which put runners on the corners. Tiger relief pitcher Manny Keller got Floyd on a pop up, but Nowakowski followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Chonko to make it 8-7. A Blake Szalapski blooper plated Swank to complete the scoring.
“We took advantage of their mistakes,” said Lake of his team’s offensive output. “We got balls to drop in. We had one really good hard hit today and the rest of them were just in there.”
That was all the Bulldogs would need as Mix set the Tigers down in order with three ground outs in the bottom of the inning. Mix earned the win on the mound, allowing just one hit, a pair of walks and two strikeouts in relief.
Swanton started the game with Bloom who pitched the first two innings, then they went to Wyatt Lake and Roman Epley before getting to Mix.
On offense, Epley and Wyatt Lake each had two hits to go along with Nowakowski’s pair of knocks. For Liberty Center, Pogan went 2 for 4 and had a pair of RBIs.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010