Schweigert and Niagara advance to the NYCBL finals
GENEVA, N.Y. — On a night that saw 31 hits, defense made the difference. When it was over, the final out rested in an appropriate glove, and the Niagara Power clinched its first trip to the finals.
Niagara swept the New York Collegiate Baseball League Western Division finals pounding out 19 hits en route to a 7-4 victory over the Geneva Twins at McDonough Park, Wednesday night.
Tyler Schweigert (Eastern Illinois) led a defense that played a nearly flawless game and in the end took away several Geneva chances.
“Tyler Schweigert was unbelievable all night at third base,” Niagara coach Garret Shivley said. “Defensively that’s probably the best singular effort from an individual all year long.”
Ranging to his left into the hole between third and short, taking the ball on the short hop just in front of the outfield grass and gunning down a runner, Schweigert did it all. The Round Lake, Illinois native made plays with men on base in the third, fifth, seventh and eighth innings that stemmed Geneva rallies.
“He was playing third base like (Hall of Famer) Brooks Robinson tonight,” Geneva coach Kevin Whiteside said. “Eastern Illinois has got a special kid in him.”
In the end it was Schweigert who fittingly settled under a pop up for the final out of the game.
“Some games I don’t get any plays,” Schweigert commented. “Other games it’s like this when you got multiple hits toward you. Today, there was every kind of hit towards me. Thankfully, they all went into my mitt.”
Niagara used a two-out rally to score three in what proved to be a decisive sixth inning.
Jamon Hammel (Huntington) greeted Geneva reliever, Nate Harris (Univ. of Dayton) with a single to left. One out later, Hammel got caught wandering from the bag on a pitch in the dirt. Geneva catcher, Dillon Hamlin (Seton Hall), alertly caught Hammel in a run down that erased the opportunity for Niagara. Geneva looked to be out of the inning until Shakeel Newton (Genesee CC) singled back through the box, and Chane Lynch (Dallas Baptist) fisted a base hit. Schweigert delivered at the plate with a double into the gap in left center scoring Newton.
Again, the Twins seemed poised to escape when Harris induced a ground ball out of Adam Taylor (North Greenville), but the hit glanced off the glove of Harris trying to make a backhanded play. By the time the ball came to rest two runs scored with Schweigert chugging around third all the way.
“We’re healthy. We’ve had the depth to give guys days off on a regular basis,” Shivley noted. “Being healthy you get to this time of the year and there’s adrenaline. There’s other things there to get you excited to play the game. It’s less of a grind. You see that excitement coupled with health, and good performance usually follows.”
Geneva starter, Jon Menke, (Univ. of Rochester) danced through minefields for the first three innings. Niagara left five on base in the first three stanzas before breaking through with two in the fourth and another pair in the fifth.
Eight Power hitters finished with multi-hit games. Hammel, Schweigert and Neil DeCook (Western Illinois) led the way with three hits apiece.
“We talked a little bit about approach,” Shivley explained. “We’ve seen Menke a few times, and they executed on their pitches. What we teach is to look for a pitch in your spot. Apparently, they were throwing pitches in our spots tonight.”
Geneva closed the gap with one in the sixth and two in the eighth. Chris Casto (Northwest Mississippi CC) rapped a two-out base hit to center in the sixth. Hamlin followed and played a double off the wall in left. A passed ball brought home Casto.
Taylor Nichols (South Alabama) led the eighth with a base hit up the middle. Casto reached on a fielder’s choice when Schweigert went into the hole between third and short to retire Nichols at second. Casto moved to third on a pair of wild pitches. Hamlin walked, and Adam Dickinson (Westmont) plated Casto with a hit. Hamlin came home on a passed ball, but the Twins couldn’t get any closer.
“I love my team,” Whiteside said. “Any times the chips were down, we stacked up. It’s just the character of these kids. They’re just tough, hard-nosed kids. They came out and laid it on the line tonight. We just got beat by a better team.”
Jonathan Knapp (Olivet Nazarene) gave up two runs on nine hits over six innings for the win.
Scott Voyles (Greenville) worked an inning and a third for the save.
With the win, Niagara advances to the NYCBL Championship for the first time in the organization’s history.
“It means a lot to me to give that to (Niagara owner) Cal Kern,” Shivley said. “He’s an inspiration. The fans have really supported us. It’s huge.”