E.A. Sports Today

Monsters win

Choccolocco rallies from early 4-0 deficit on the road to earn its first victory in franchise history

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Choccolocco Monsters manager Steve Gillispie always was confident his team would have success on the diamond. It just took it a little while to get up to speed.

Daniel Swatek and Harris Burns pitched six shutout innings of relief and the Monsters put together a three-run eighth-inning rally to erase an early four-run deficit and defeat the Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots 5-4 for their first victory in franchise history.

I equate it to driving a manual transmission,” Gillispie said. “They’ve put their foot on the gas, but they haven’t let off the clutch. It’s taken some time to get going.”

The Sunbelt Baseball League’s newest franchise trailed last year’s league runner-up 4-0 after four innings, but chipped away and eventually took the lead with a bizarre eighth that started after the first two hitters of the inning were retired.

The Monsters’ big inning didn’t start well, with Dawson Winningham getting thrown out at third trying to stretch a leadoff double into a triple, but it showed the aggressiveness the Monsters were willing to display on the base paths when warranted. They were able to do some of those things because the game was still within reach.

Jake Spivey singled home the first run of the inning to make it 4-3. Brennan McCullough scored the tying run on a double steal when the throw through from Hoots catcher Ellis Yohn bounced through the infield. Spivey was balked to third and then scored the go-ahead run when ball four to Tyler Waugh got away from Yohn.

The Monsters had beaten the Hoots in an exhibition game last Sunday, but this was their first win in a game where all the particulars counted.

“I told them in the clubhouse we’ve done nothing but play six games against the team that was in the championship game, they’re kind of the gold standard,” Gillispie said. “We didn’t always play well, but you always kept playing and that was very important.

“It was big against one of the top teams in the league and coming from behind against a good pitching staff. It was 10-0 last night, run rule and then they had two hours in the van driving down, then fell behind 4-0, we could’ve put a stamp on it and mailed it in, but … they did everything they needed to do.”

Once the Monsters took the lead, Daniel Swatek made it stand. The right-hander from Shelton State was their second reliever after starter A.J. Jarrell took a shot off his knee cap in the fourth inning. Harris Burns came on first and gave up a run to an inherited runner, but otherwise kept the Hoots off the board in his 2 2/3 innings of work.

Swatek finished sixth inning and stayed to the end without expending a lot of pitches. He gave up no hits, no runs and struck out three in 3 1/3 innings. He gave up a leadoff walk in the ninth, but that runner was erased on a failed sacrifice and he closed it out with a fly to left and a game-ending comebacker.

“He was just dominant at the end,” Gillispie said.

“My key to success on the mound today was realizing early that my fastball was playing well,” Swatek said. “It had a lot of life and my slider was really tight. When hitters did make contact it was weak and on the ground. My infield was completely solid. All they did the whole time was back me up. They made it easy for me.

“We all just really worked together and I found a groove and was able to make a lot of pitches at the right time. Knowing now I’m the first Choccolocco Monsters pitcher to record a win, that means a lot to me … All I hope is I can record a lot more wins, our whole pitching staff can record some wins and we go far in this league. I really think we will if we build off that.”

The Monsters and Chatt-a-Hoots got to know each other pretty well, having played six games since last Saturday, including their respective home openers the last two nights. The Monsters open a two-game road series with the Gwinnett Astros Monday night. They don’t play the Hoots again until June 24-25.

“They’re a solid team,” Gillispie said. “I felt we could compete with them pretty well and we’ll see what the rest of the league is like, but (getting the first win is) definitely a confidence builder going into next week when we finally see another color uniform.“

Choccolocco       000 011 030 – 5 7 2
Columbus            102 100 000 – 4 5 2
WP: Daniel Swatek. LP: Ryan Middleton. 2B: Dawson Winningham (Choc), Manibusan (Col).

Sunbelt Baseball League standings

Waleska Wild Things31.750
Alpharetta Aviators22.5001
Gainesville GolDiggers12.3331.5
Atlanta Crackers31.750
Brookhaven Bucks12.3331.5
Atlanta Blues13.2502
Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots11.500
Gwinnett Astros11.500
Choccolocco Monsters11.500

Saturday’s results
Atlanta Crackers 3, Atlanta Blues 2
Choccolocco 5, Columbus 4
Gainesville 3, Alpharetta 0
Waleska 6, Brookhaven 4

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