Swanton’s Gunnar Oakes drew a bases-loaded two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh to force in Hunter Mix with the winning run, capping an amazing comeback from a four-run deficit with five runs in the last inning to defeat Delta 9-8 and capture the DIII Sectional Baseball Championship. It was the first sectional title for the Bulldogs since 1976, ending a drought of 41 years, long before all of the players and even some of their parents were born.
Given the address of Swanton’s baseball field, the stunning turn of events and outcome might forever be labeled the “Miracle on Main Street.” However, it took grit, determination and a never-say-die attitude to send the Bulldog faithful home with a memory they will never forget.
“That last inning was the most unreal thing I’ve ever been a part of in my high school ccr leadership, the Bulldogs responded with a final inning performance for the ages.
Oakes walked leading off the bottom of the seventh inning against Delta relief pitcher Robby Arredondo and Zach Zawodni singled putting runners on first and second with nobody out. Panther catcher Jason Beverly then blocked a pitch in the dirt and Oakes took third as the ball rolled away. Zawodni, however, hesitated, was caught in a rundown and was tagged out. Adcock grounded out to short to bring home Oakes and cut the deficit three runs but now there was two out and the bases were empty.
Ben Burke walked on a full count, reigniting the rally and was replaced by pinch runner Xavier Williams. Zach Bloom, who stood to be the pitcher of record after Delta scored four times in the sixth, drove a pitch into left field for his second hit of the day. Pinch hitting for Jonny Shanks, Duyane Goings singled to left driving in Williams, pulling the Bulldogs within two at 8-6. Shanks then reentered the game to run for Goings.
Mix then walked to load the bases and put the potential winning run on first. Roman Eply promptly lined the first pitch into left field scoring Bloom then Shanks to knot the contest at 8-8 as the home town crowd erupted. With the winning run now in scoring position, Delta coach Damon Mattimore chose to walk the always dangerous hitter Michael Lawniczak to set up a force at every base.
This brought Oakes, who had reached base in all four previous plate appearances, up to bat. Five pitches later, Oakes was headed to first base and the Bulldogs were headed to the District tournament for the first time in over four decades. No more drought. No more “curse.”
“It was an emotional rollercoaster. Every time we play Delta it’s a battle. It’s always a battle,” said elated Swanton coach Tim McCarthy. “All 15 guys that were here today contributed in some way shape or form. It was a total team effort. I’m proud of the kids.”
On the statistical side of the ledger, Bloom picked up the win in relief of Noah Johnston to run his record to an unblemished 3-0 on the year. Adcock had three RBIs and Eply added two. Oakes scored three times while Lawniczak touched home twice.
In relief of starting pitcher Travis Dunning, Arredondo took the loss. Gabe Freeman led the Delta offense with two hits, two walks and three runs scored. Tristen Sager had a double and two singles and Travis Barnes scored two runs.
Swanton will now take on the NWOAL Champion Archbold Blue Streaks in the District semis in Defiance on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 4:00 pm.
Bill O’Connell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org