SOUTH DAYTON - Tyler Swanson pitched splendidly in relief of an injured Zack Fancher, and the top-seeded Pine Valley offense took advantage of a slew of Sherman errors and walks while pounding out 17 hits en route to a 26-3 win over the No. 8 Wildcats in Section 6 Class D quarterfinal baseball action, on Wednesday.
"As a team, we were confident it was going to happen," Pine Valley head coach Chris Buczek said of his team's offensive success. "And I think inside the huddle they rally around each other. And our excitement was up. This was probably one of the most excited games we've played as far as cheering and being up for the game."
Up 8-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Panthers exploded for 16 runs on six hits and six walks while taking advantage of six Wildcat errors, as every batter that came to the plate scored at least one run.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
Pine Valley third baseman Zack?Fancher, left, gets ready to apply a tag to Sherman’s Ryan Robson during Wednesday’s Section 6 Class D?quarterfinal high school baseball game.
"I think it was just more intimidation," Sherman head coach Aaron Jessey said. "First time in the playoffs, and (Pine Valley) is a good team. I'm not taking anything away from them, but I think we beat ourselves today."
Winfred Nelson, Lyle Howard and Joe Gierszewski all had two-run singles in the frame while Fancher drove in a run and Gene Farnham added an RBI on a bases-loaded walk.
Most of the damage in the bottom of the fifth was credited to Ryan Robson, who failed to record an out before giving way to David Kelley, who started and went the first four innings for Sherman. Neither pitcher was blessed with good defensive play behind them however, as the Wildcats committed nine errors on the afternoon.
"I know that we can't be credited for a lot of those hits," Buczek said. "It's tough because you feel bad because those kids were putting themselves in the right position ... And it's not that we want the other team to field all of our balls, but it's tough after a while because you can see how hard they're working and they're just not finishing (the plays)."
Swanson, who pitched the final six innings, coming in to start the second inning after Fancher left with an injured hand, struck out 11, walked one and allowed two runs on four hits.
"Throughout the year, he has been consistent, maybe one an inning," Buczek noted of Swanson's 11 strikeouts. "That might be one of his higher games, but he's got the potential to (be a strikeout pitcher). And I think he showed it today. He was way more focused and I'll give him a lot of credit for that."
The performance by Swanson was something Buczek could see building all season long.
"Throughout the season he's progressed to be a really good pitcher and when he came in, he was focused and on point and there was no concern at all," Buczek said.
Swanson's only blip came in the top of the fifth when he allowed two runs on three hits and a walk.
"I think he's had it in him," Buczek said of Swanson. "I think throughout the year he's struggled at points like in the fifth inning (Wednesday). It happens from time to time, but the other innings, that's his potential. He can do that consistently if he stays on and stays focused."
For his part, Kelley kept Sherman in the game as long as he could before giving way to fatigue in the fourth when the Panthers added five runs to their 3-1 lead.
Howard (double), Swanson (double) and Kyle Riggs all had run-scoring hits in the fourth while Trombley plated a run with a suicide squeeze.
"David's a fighter," Jessey said. "He fights every game ... You can't do it by yourself. He didn't get any help out there."
Kelley finished allowing 16 runs (six earned) on 13 hits while striking out six and walking four.
The Wildcats scored a run in the top of the first to open a 1-0 lead, but would not have any more success until their two-run fifth inning, as Swanson retired the first nine hitters he faced - seven on strikeouts - before a Jeremy Cole single broke the streak with a lead off single in the fifth.
For the Panthers, Howard finished with four hits, three RBIs and four runs scored, Nelson had three hits, including a double, two RBIs and three runs and Fancher chipped in three hits and a pair of RBIs. Also for Pine Valley, Spencer Sticek (four runs) and Gierszewski (two RBIs, two runs) each had two hits.
"My pitchers today were fatigued," Jessey said. "I just didn't have anybody else and it caught up to us."
Despite the lopsided win, Buczek knows his team still has plenty to work on as it prepares for its semifinal matchup against either No. 4 Brocton or No. 5 West Valley, which will play today, at Brocton.
"The next two teams, we didn't get to see this year," Buczek said of Brocton and West Valley. "I think they're as good as any team on that side of the bracket, so I think we've got our hands full. And we have a lot to correct. There are a couple of fielding things and base running, we didn't pick up on signs (Wednesday) and hitting. It's nice we came out in the fifth inning and did it, but we need to do that earlier to make sure we're knocking the other team out. I think we're far away from where we need to be."