A nine-run sixth inning broke open an otherwise tight game as Swanton traveled to Delta Thursday and came away with a 12-2 win in six innings on a brisk day for baseball.
Up 3-1 in the top half of the sixth the Bulldogs went to work. Carter Swank reached on an infield single to start it off, Michael Lawniczak then reached on a bobble at third base, followed by a single from Roman Epley, loading the bases.
Billy Nowakowski’s blooper plated Swank, plus a passed ball scored Lawniczak for a 5-1 Swanton lead. Zach Zawodni would come through with a triple to right field that brought home two more runs.
After an out the Dogs kept attacking. A Tommy Chonko infield single scored Zawodni to make the difference 8-1. The Dogs reloaded the bases as Hunter Mix reached on an error and Swank, making his second appearance in the inning, followed with a walk.
Lawniczak then put down the final blow, drilling a shot to the fence with the bases loaded, scoring everyone including himself when the throw from the outfield landed near the Delta dugout.
“We struggled to score runs early. It wasn’t due to lack of opportunity. We left quite a few guys on base today,” said Swanton coach Tim McCarthy on the offense in general and Lawniczak’s big hit. “Credit to their guys keeping us off balance. It was nice to see the bats wake up there a little bit. That was a big hit for us and Michael. He really relishes coming up in spots like that. Any competitor does.”
“Sixth inning we lost focus in a 3 to 1 game and it got away from us defensively,” explained Panther skipper Damon Mattimore.
This gave Swanton an insurmountable lead of 12-1.
Delta cut the deficit to 10 in the bottom of the inning with Austin Michael’s RBI single that plated Chase Cooper. However, they also stranded a pair of runners as Nowakowski, on in relief of Austin Luce, struck out the next three batters to end the game in six.
“Coach McCarthy and his staff has a good team this year. They are experienced. We are very young,” said Mattimore.
Luce went the first five innings where he allowed just one hit, an unearned run, and struck out nine. “I think Austin did a great job adapting to elements and pounding the strike zone,” stated McCarthy. “It’s not easy pitching in this kind of weather but he did a really nice job locating his fastball and mixing in his offspeed stuff when necessary.”
The Panthers used three pitchers with starter Hunter Hamilton taking the loss. He did have four strikeouts in just two innings of work, but also walked four and allowed the game’s first three runs. Those came on bases-loaded walks from Swank and Lawniczak, plus a passed ball that brought home Devon Crouse.
“Kept them off balance in the opening inning, mixing his speeds,” said Mattimore of Hamilton. “But in the second we gave them their runs, walking four and a HBP (hit by pitch).”
Chase Stickley and Michael finished the game for Delta.
For Swanton, Lawniczak drove in four runs, three of which came on his triple in the sixth. Chonko and Nowakowski each added two hits, while Zawodni finished 1 for 3 with a walk and two runs batted in.
The Dogs were at North Central Saturday, topping the Eagles 10-1 in six innings. The Panthers remained home the rest of the week where they defeated Woodward 14-2 Friday, but fell 14-1 and 13-1 to Otsego in a doubleheader Saturday.
Swanton begins the Northwest Ohio Athletic League season Monday at Evergreen. They next host Pettisville Tuesday.
Delta begins league play at Liberty Center Monday. The Panthers will welcome Woodmore on Tuesday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010