Written by Corbett Smith
Down four runs in 6th, Wakeland erupts to win series over Highland park
CARROLLTON -- After it was over, both coaches agreed it was a series for the ages.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a better series between two evenly matched teams," Frisco Wakeland coach Barry Rose said.
Highland Park's Fred Oliver concurred.
"This was a true boxing match," Oliver said.
In Game 3 of the Class 4A Region II quarterfinal, Frisco Wakeland rallied from a four-run deficit in the final two innings for an 8-6 win. Eric Swann hit a grand slam to tie the game in the sixth, and Joey Swanner -- who was 1 for 11 in the series until his final at-bat -- hit a series-winning two-run home run.
Each of the three games was either decided in extra innings or in the final at-bat.
Highland Park won Game 2 earlier Saturday, 8-6, in eight innings.
"Game 1, I thought that was the most incredible game I'd ever been a part of ..." winning pitcher Willie Schwanke said. "Game 3 blew that game out of the water. It was incredible."
Highland Park forced the deciding game with a rally of its own in Game 2.
Trailing 6-5 heading into the seventh, Highland Park (32-6) -- ranked No. 3 in SportsDay's final 4A-Others rankings -- crafted the game-tying run without a hit. With one out, Chris McDade reached after being hit by a pitch, and moved to third on a passed ball and wild pitch. An error on a subsequent pick-off attempted allowed him to score.
Even so, Wakeland (35-5) looked as though it would score the series-winning run in the bottom of the inning. With a walk, a single by Sean McCracken and an intentional walk of Joey Swanner, Wakeland -- ranked No. 1 in the final SportsDay rankings -- had the bases loaded with no one out.
But Highland Park starting pitcher Preston Edwards, who eventually was pulled in the eighth after 127 pitches -- got three groundouts to end the inning, with the first two outs force-outs at home.
Highland Park would end up scoring the winning runs in the top of the eighth, off an error by Wakeland second baseman Justin Swanner.
"I was mad at myself," Rose said. "We had bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, and we beat Rockwall in the first game of the playoffs on a suicide squeeze just like that. I had two opportunities to do that, and I felt like I should have done it."
Rose said that he told his team if they could get over that Game 2 loss, he thought they would win Game 3.
But it didn't look promising, early.
Highland Park's Game 3 starter Holt Perlman settled in as he progressed, allowing single base runners in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings.
"They had a lot of momentum coming in from that first game, and we were playing from behind [from the start]," Joey Swanner said. "Everyone started quieted down over here. It was the bottom of the fifth, when Coach [Rose] gave us a speech. 'We are going to win this ballgame. Start chipping away at them.'"
Wakeland didn't exactly follow its coach's instructions. Instead of chipping away, it gulped runs in the sixth.
Schwanke was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs in the sixth, bringing up Swann.
Swann took a first-pitch inside fastball and ripped it over the right-centerfield wall.
"We were going percentages, and boy, he tattooed it," Oliver said.
The top of the seventh ended controversially for Highland Park, with base runner Ford Stainback called out on an attempted steal because Chris McDade was ruled to have interfered with the catcher's throw. It was the second out of the game the umpire gave to Highland Park on batter's interference.
In the bottom of the inning, lead-off hitter Sean McCracken reached on a single. Rose had Swanner show bunt the first two pitches of the at-bat, before letting him swing away.
It was just a bluff, according to Rose.
"Joey's not the greatest bunter," Rose said. "He's a good drag bunter for base hits, but not to square and sacrifice guys around. The first one was a fake bunt."
On a 1-1 count, Swanner didn't face the pitcher to bunt. Instead, he plunked the scoreboard with a towering shot to right field.
"I was crowding that plate all day, and I knew it had to come soon or later," Swanner said.
Wakeland (35-5) will face Mesquite Poteet next week in the regional semifinals.
It is the second straight season that Highland Park lost in the closing moments to Wakeland in the playoffs.
Last year, Highland Park was within an out of a win in Game 3 of a first-round series against Wakeland, but an overthrown ball to the first baseman for the third out scored a run. Wakeland -- which advanced to the semifinals -- would add the game-winning run to win, 8-7, scoring seven runs in the final two innings.
"I told my kids, 'You didn't get beat, you just ran out of innings,'" Oliver said.