Swanton softball has come a long way a step at a time under veteran coach Joe Nye.
The Bulldogs took yet another step in that progression Tuesday, jumping out to a big lead, then battling through some late inning adversity to claim a 9-7 NWOAL home win over Delta.
“Every NWOAL win is important to us,” said Nye. “It means we have beaten one more opponent in the league and taken one more step up the ladder in the standings.”
The Bulldogs jumped on Delta for four first innings runs to take an early lead.
Haley Nelson and Deanna Herr reached on back-to-back errors and Kylie Ulch’ one-out single marked those two.
Olivia Williams’ two-out infield hit put runners on first and third, and Williams and Ulch executed a double steal to score Swanton’s third run.
Hayley Pelland’s bouncer up the middle knocked home the fourth.
Swanton added on three more in the second off Delta starter Hayley Callahan.
Nelson drew a one-out walk and rode home on Herr’s double for the first tally. Ulch’ line drive single plated Herr, and after Olivia Bergman’s single and a walk to Williams loaded the bases, Ulch scored on a wild pitch to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
However, after Bergman worked out of a bases loaded jam in the second in the circle, she wasn’t as fortunate in the fourth.
One out base hits by Sadie Burres, then Sara Sintobin, and a walk to Sydney Creps loaded the bases, and Madi Nadolny’s ground out plated the first Delta run.
A wild pitch and consecutive two-out singles from Emily Clifton and Madi Zimmerman brought home three more and the Panthers had sliced the Bulldog lead to 7-4.
Swanton got one back in the bottom of the inning when Herr singled, stole second and scored later when Bergman bounced into a force play, but the Panthers used a big break to answer with three more in the sixth.
Creps opened the inning with a base hit and Nadolny followed with what looked like a double play grounder to second.
However, the ball took a wicked hop off Williams’ clavicle and went for a bad hop single instead of a possible twin-killing to fuel the Delta rally.
A run scoring single by Clifton, an RBI bounce out from Zimmerman, and a wild pitch later had Delta within 8-7 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
That was when after two were out, the Bulldogs found a little magic of their own to score an insurance run.
Hayley McMahon was hit by a pitch, Ulch followed with her third hit of the day and Bergman followed with a ringing run scoring double to extend Swanton’s precarious one-run advantage to two heading into the seventh.
“That run we scored in the sixth was huge,” said Nye. “The game is a lot different being up two instead of one and I give our girls a lot of credit being tough and getting an insurance run after what happened in the top of the inning.”
Bergman put the Panthers away three-up, three-down in the top of the seventh to preserve the victory, going the distance while giving up 12 hits and six earned runs.
Callahan took the loss for Delta, giving up five earned runs and nine Bulldog hits.
The teams meet again next week in the opening round of the OHSAA Division III sectional tournament, Tuesday, May 9 at 5 p.m. at Swanton.
Reach Joe Blystone at email@example.com