Written by Corbett Smith
Unbeaten Schwanke helps Wakeland even series with Heath, 1-0
MCKINNEY — After a Game 1 win in the Class 4A Region II final, Rockwall-Heath coach Greg Harvey decided on a little gamesmanship. Instead of matching his ace, Jake Thompson, with unbeaten Wakeland pitcher Willie Schwanke, Harvey held Thompson out for a potential Game 3 start.
Schwanke needed another great start to call Harvey’s bluff.
While Heath’s No. 3 pitcher, Jake Baxter, was outstanding, allowing just one run, Schwanke held Heath to three hits in a 1-0 Wakeland win.
It was Schwanke’s third straight win in games where Wakeland (30-12) faced elimination, and his second-straight shutout. The senior, signed with Arkansas, pitched a one-hitter against Waxahachie in Game 2 of the regional semifinals.
“He’s a competitor,” Wakeland coach Barry Rose said. “When our backs are against the wall, he’s the guy we want on the bump. Just a great mind-set of going out, and he thinks he’s going to win. If it’s a one-on-one battle against the hitter, he’s going to win the battle every time.”
Schwanke scored the game’s only run, getting a leadoff double against Baxter in the top of the third. But on the play Schwanke scored, Heath second baseman Grayson Lewis expertly started a double play, helping Baxter limit the damage.
“He deserved to win,” Harvey said of Baxter’s effort. “We just ran into a tough pitcher.”
Schwanke hit a groove after the first two innings, facing the minimum number of batters in all but one of the final five innings. “As I went on, I found my mechanics,” Schwanke said.
Jovan Hernandez reached on a single with one out in the sixth for Heath (33-8), but Schwanke got Thompson to line to third baseman Austin Gehle, who turned a double play by catching Hernandez off first base.
After the game, Rose decided on some strategy of his own, choosing to remain as the visiting team after winning the coin flip for Saturday’s Game 3. Thompson will start against Wakeland’s Cameron Brockhoff.
“They won last night over here, we won [Friday] over here,” he said, pointing to the visitor’s dugout.
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