No panic: Schwanke pitches Wakeland into decisive Game 3
MCKINNEY -- Wakeland starting pitcher Willie Schwanke only got one run of support from his offense during Friday night's regional finals Game 2 matchup against Rockwall-Heath.
That was all the senior hurler needed, as the righty tossed a complete game shutout after holding the Hawks to just three hits to force a third and decisive Game 3 Saturday night.
"[Schwanke] is a competitor," said Barry Rose, Wakeland head coach. "When our backs are against the wall, he's the one we want on the bump."
After coming one strike away from a no-hitter in his last outing, Schwanke delivered another gem in efficient fashion by allowing only four base runners the entire game.
The Wolverines had an easier time with Heath senior starter Jake Baxter, producing seven hits and three walks throughout the night.
Wakeland got its first and only run of the game during the top of the third inning after Schwanke helped his own cause by belting a leadoff double to center field.
Senior second baseman Justin Swanner then needed only one pitch to hit a crucial single that put runners on the corners with no outs.
With sophomore catcher Seth Mullis at the plate, the Wolverines tried to twice score on a suicide squeeze attempt before two strikes forced Mullis to abandon the strategy.
However, Mullis managed to hit a hard ground ball that scored a run despite the hit ending in a double play.
"We always like to get that first run," Rose said. "Hitters are just able to relax when we get an early lead."
Schwanke then came through for Wakeland during the shut-down inning and retired nine straight batters to prevent any possible Heath rally.
Heath's best chance might have came in the home half of the fifth when senior first baseman Timbo Duncan hit a long fly ball to right field.
Junior Cameron Brockhoff played the ball perfectly though and made a tough leaping catch in the warning track to prevent an extra base hit to lead off the inning.
Hawks junior outfielder Russell Hughes singled one batter later for one of Heath's three hits in the game.
Nothing would come of the Hughes hit though and Heath would add just one more hit in the contest after a one-out single from catcher Jovan Hernandez in the sixth inning.
Schwanke ended the sixth during the next at bat by getting senior third baseman Jake Thompson to line into a double play.
The Wovlerines had an opportunity to add an insurance run in the top of the seventh after senior Hayden Nixon led off the inning with a bunt single down the third base line.
Nixon advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore shortstop Grant Devore during the next at bat.
The Hawks then elected to intentionally walk Schwanke to set up a double play before Baxter retired Swanner and Mullis in back-to-back at bats to end the inning.
With his team on the brink of elimination after an 8-1 loss in Thursday's Game 1, Schwanke left no doubt about the Wakeland win during the seventh inning.
The senior retired the first two hitters of the frame on ground ball outs before fanning Duncan to end the game.
"[Schwanke] is a baseball guy," Rose said. "He has been around baseball his whole life."
The win improved Wakeland's season mark to 30-12 and put the Wolverines one win from a trip to Round Rock.
"We've been [in a Game 3] before," Rose said. "We know what to expect and know what type of pressure we'll experience."
A Wakeland win in Saturday's decisive contest would make it four victories in Game 3 meetings this postseason. The Wolverines previously ousted McKinney North, Highland Park and Waxahachie in such situations.
The 7:30 p.m. matchup will see Brockhoff take the mound for Wakeland and oppose Heath's Thompson.
"[Brockhoff] has been solid," Rose said. "He's got some Game 3 magic going."
Brockhoff has earned the victory in all Game 3 situations during the playoffs.