Swanton stuck with preseason league favorite Bryan for six innings until the Golden Bears broke through with five runs in the top of the seventh, defeating the Bulldogs 10-5 in Northwest Ohio Athletic League baseball action Monday in Swanton.
The Bulldogs dropped to 0-3 in the league following the loss.
Bryan’s Zach Dye banged a single through the left side of the Swanton infield to begin the seventh inning charge. Connor Arthur and Dom James each followed with perfectly placed bunts for singles that loaded the bases, subsequently ending the day for Bulldog starting pitcher Roman Epley.
After Hunter Mix relieved Epley, the Golden Bears’ Breven Deckrosh drilled a two-run single to put Bryan in front. A Trevor Ward sacrifice bunt put two Bears in scoring position, however, the Dogs then elected to intentionally walk reigning NWOAL Player of the Year Nate Miller, in hopes of enticing an inning-ending double play.
Nevertheless, it was not meant to be.
Brooks Brown got a base hit to right, and when the ball took a bad hop on the right fielder, two runs scored for a 9-5 Golden Bear lead. Then, Logan Clemens’ shot to deep left field dropped on an error to bring home the game’s final run.
Epley led off with a base on balls to begin the home half of the seventh, but three straight strikeouts stranded him at first base.
Swanton did do a nice job of recovering after falling in a 4-0 hole to start the game. They quickly answered back, scoring four runs of their own in the bottom of the first.
Michael Lawniczak got it going by reaching on a catcher’s interference with two outs. Epley’s base hit put runners at the corners, then Derek Floyd reached on a Bryan drop in left, scoring Lawniczak. The Dogs would tie it at 4 as Epley, Floyd, and Billy Nowakowski each came home on wild pitches before a strikeout ended the threat.
“I am proud of how the guys battled,” said Swanton coach Tim McCarthy. “After a rough top of the first we bounced back and tied the game right away. Unfortunately when you play a well-coached team and program like Bryan, extra outs and mental mistakes will jump up and bite you.”
Both squads added a run in their half of the second, making the margin 5-5.
Bryan’s run came after a one-out double from Miller. He was advanced to third on a ground out, Clemens drew a walk, then an errant pickoff to first in an effort to put out Clemens plated Miller.
Swanton forced out Bryan starter Benny Roebuck during an at-bat in the bottom of the inning. With Tommy Chonko already having walked and Mix ahead in the count 2-0, Golden Bear skipper Jeff Inselman elected to pull him in favor of James.
However, Mix worked a walk and the Dogs loaded the bases with Carter Swank’s bunt single. This allowed them to tie it on a fly to deep center from Lawniczak.
With some quality defense, the Dogs were able to keep Bryan off the board in the middle innings. The Bears got the leadoff man on in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, but each time they failed to score.
“We made some really nice plays in those innings,” stated McCarthy. “Austin Luce made a great throw on a well-executed hit and run to throw a guy out at third. Derek Floyd made an excellent scoop at first that saved a run or two. If we can shore up our defense and play like we did in the middle innings we can play with anybody.”
Epley was charged with the loss for Swanton, despite giving a valiant effort after a rough first inning.
“I thought Roman was gritty – tremendous,” said McCarthy of his starting pitcher. “He didn’t let early mistakes get to him mentally and he really settled in. He has been battling a back issue the last week or so. If you were to tell me he’d throw into the seventh inning I would have said you were nuts. Very proud of his effort.”
Swanton had their non-league meeting at Bowsher Tuesday canceled due to poor field conditions. The Dogs resume NWOAL play Thursday at Patrick Henry, then they visit Sylvania Northview Saturday with an 11 a.m. start.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010