Champs already: Wolverines clinch 9-4A title with win over Centennial
FRISCO -- Wakeland and Centennial entered Friday night's showdown as the first and second-place teams from District 9-4A.
With the Wolverines and Titans also being cross-town rivals, it might come as no surprise that a pregame altercation occured that left starters Hayden Nixon and Austin Gehle sidelined for the matchup.
Despite missing their leadoff hitter and center fielder, the Wolverines still managed to earn a 4-2 victory to improve to 11-0 in district play and earn the 9-4A championship with three games remaining.
"We just have to keep doing things the way we always have," said Barry Rose, Wakeland head coach.
Senior Willie Schwanke was on the mound for Wakeland and went the distance, tossing seven innings and surrendering just two runs on six hits while striking out seven Centennial hitters.
"[Schwanke] was just clutch," Rose said. "He's been on the mound in big playoff games before so he knows what that's like."
Schwanke was opposing Centennial's ace in senior Justin Bethard and won the battle early on.
After Bethard worked a quick first inning with two of his 10 strikeouts, the Wolverines put together a one-out rally thanks in large part to the Centennial defense.
With sophomore catcher Seth Mullis reaching on an error and Bethard issuing a walk to the next batter, junior Cameron Brockhoff made the Titans pay with an RBI single that scored the game's first run.
"We've been getting some timely hits lately," Rose said.
Meanwhile, after a first-inning single from Centennial shortstop Tanner Gardner, Schwanke retired seven straight batters to preserve his team's early lead.
The Wakeland offense would add to that lead during the top of the fourth when Brockhoff drew a leadoff walk and senior Tyler Coats followed with a single to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Junior Dan Harrington proceeded to drive in Brockhoff with an RBI ground out that put the game at 2-0 in favor of the Wolverines.
Wakeland wasn't done just yet though, driving in another run on a sacrifice fly from senior Justin Swanner that came immediately after shortstop Grant Devore reached on Centennial's second error of the game.
With the Swanner RBI putting Wakeland's lead at three runs, the Titans needed a rally of their own and got just that in the home half of the fourth.
The inning began with a leadoff double from Taylor Raglin that bounced off the wall in left field. Schwanke then issued a walk to catcher Ryan Pulsifer and an RBI single to Jacob Atchley.
Dylan Forsythe then loaded the bases with a single of his own during the next at bat to keep the Centennial rally going.
However, with bases loaded and no outs the Titans were only able to score one more run after a wild pitch from Schwanke.
"Them only getting one run after that jam was a big momentum boost for us," Rose said. "[Schwanke] settled down a little bit after that."
The game would remain a one-run affair through the fifth and sixth innings as both Schwanke and Bethard continued to baffle opposing hitters.
Bethard lasted 6.1 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and four walks. The senior struck 10 hitters and hit another.
Wakeland's final run came in the seventh inning after a leadoff double from Schwanke gave Mullis an RBI opportunity with one out in the frame.
Mullis made the most of it and drove in Schwanke to add a crucial insurance run and make it 4-2 with Centennial down to its final three outs.
Centennial relief pitcher Ryan Hill got the final two outs for his team after coming in for Bethard during the seventh inning.
The Wolverines wouldn't need to go to their bullpen, as Schwanke delivered a shutdown inning during the bottom of the seventh that proved to be the championship-winning inning.
"I like the way we're pitching and I like the way we're playing defense right now," Rose said. "We're also getting some timely hits now."
With the victory, the Wolverines move to 18-7 on the season and will now take on Carrollton Creekview in a 7:30 p.m. matchup on Tuesday.
"Creekview is a good team and they aren't far behind us in the standings," Rose said. "We're just focusing on taking it one game at a time right now."
Nixon is slated to start that game on the mound for Wakeland.
With Friday's loss, Centennial fell to 8-3 in district play and moved into a two-way tie with Creekview for second place.
The Titans will look to get back on the winning track with a 7:30 p.m. road meeting against fourth-place Frisco.