E.A. Sports Today

Scary good

Choccolocco Monsters play ‘our best game of the year’ to win another one on the road, hit two homers, tie season-high for hits, relievers sharp behind closer turned starter Swatek

Former Alexandria standout Austin Goode had another strong relief outing Monday to close out the Monsters’ road win over Brookhaven. On the cover, Nate Shipley led the offense with two extra-base hits and five RBIs. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BROOKHAVEN, Ga. – The Choccolocco Monsters used a different kind of formula to win another road game in the Sunbelt Baseball League Monday night.

Monsters manager Steve Gillispie turned closer Daniel Swatek into a starter and the record-tying hitters enjoyed their first multi-homer game of the season in beating the Brookhaven Bucks 11-4 at Oglethorpe University.

NEXT: at Brookhaven,
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“There were a lot of do’s out of that book of baseball knowledge, not many don’ts,” Gillispie said, dipping back to his favorite analogy from the weekend. “I think it was our best game of the year.”

Swatek was making his first start since a three-inning no-decision for Shelton State against Hinds (Miss.) CC on March 9, 2020, and pitched into the fifth inning with the lead but didn’t go long enough to figure in the decision. Still, he worked through bases-loaded jams in the first and third innings and eventually was lifted in the fifth after 86 pitches. 

“Swatty was roughed up a little bit, but he was squeezed badly, but he battled through,” Gillispie said. “It was just a different situation for him. We had a hard time getting him into games. He needed to get out and pitch. I didn’t want it to be 90 pitches. I thought if I could get him out there for five innings that’d be good. It was more pitches than what we thought, but I knew he’s got eight days off (coming up).”

A.J. Jarrell and Austin Goode, both of whom have been really good in their last couple outings, came in behind Swatek and threw 4 2/3 of shutout relief, allowing two hits apiece and combining to strike out 10. Jarrell retired eight in a row at one point before the leadoff man reached in the eighth on an outfield error and got the win.

“I think (Jarrell’s) definitely a guy who has let his foot off the clutch and taken a deep breath, and he’s figured out he can really take advantage of aggressive hitters,” Gillispie said. “Six of their guys in the lineup were left-handed and I thought he was a perfect match for them with his change-up.

“For a guy who’s a low- to mid-80s fastball, they couldn’t catchup to him but they also couldn’t stay back on the changeup. It was a perfect storm for him. He could throw all of his pitches. As long as he’s locating the fastball he’s going to really good. Tonight, he was.”

Nate Shipley and Dom Scavone both homered in the first four innings to give the Monsters leads and altogether the offense tied the team’s season-high for hits with 15. Shipley hit a three-run homer in the first and Scavone broke a 3-3 tie with a leadoff homer in the fourth.

Shipley, who played in the field for the first time this season after extensively being an extra hitter (EH), also had a two-run triple in the ninth and finished with five RBIs. Scavone and Brant Deerman had three hits apiece, Josh Cooper and Sean Smith each had two, and Dawson Winningham, in his first at-bat since June 22, delivered a two-run single in the ninth.

“We talked about accepting challenges after the game Saturday night and the No. 1 challenge was just to play better, to perform better and to hit together as a team,” Gillispie said. “We weren’t taking advantage of opportunities and tonight they did.

“The game was over, I wanted to say, hey, who are you guys and what did you do with my team. They were very good. They were locked in. They hit velocity. They hit breaking balls. They hit to all parts of the field. They were aggressive. It was just, really, an all-around good night. Maybe it’s something we can build on and parlay into a three- or four-game win streak, kind of take some of the pressure off the last four or five games.”

The win keeps them alive in the league’s wild-card race. They are now 2.5 games behind Brookhaven for the final playoff spot and 1.5 behind Gwinnett. They play the Bucks again Wednesday, while Gwinnett faces West-leading Columbus before coming to Choccolocco Park over the weekend.

“We’re kind of in crunch time,” Gillispie said. “I looked at all that yesterday in the sunroom with a glass of iced tea. If we go out and what we do resembles what we did tonight we’ve got a fantastic chance of being in the playoffs.”

MONSTERS MASH: The Monsters (7-13) are now 7-4 on the road … The way Swatek responds to his longest outing of the year will go a long way to determining what roles the pitchers play down the stretch. Goode, who hasn’t given up a run in his last three outings (5.1 innings), is in line for the start Friday night … SBL All-Star Game rosters are expected to be finalized Tuesday. The game is Sunday at Choccolocco Park. There’s a reasonable expectation the Monsters get Josh Cooper, Shipley and pitcher Will Griffith to the game … Bucks’ manager Corey Patterson is the third former big-leaguer turned SBL manager the Monsters have faced this season (Aviators’ Brandon Boggs, GolDiggers’ Micah Owings).

Choccolocco       300 200 015 – 11 15 1
Brookhaven         012 010 000 –   4 13 4
WP: A.J. Jarrell (2-0). LP: Braeden Mefford (0-2). 2B: Jack Herring (B), Scott Mudler (B) Kyle Carlson (B), Drew Miller (B). 3B: Nate Shipley (C). HR: Nate Shipley (C), Dom Scavone (C), Drew Miller (B).

Sunbelt Baseball League standings

Gainesville GolDiggers165.762
Waleska Wild Things108.5564.5
Alpharetta Aviators415.21111
Atlanta Crackers126.667
Atlanta Blues1010.5003
Brookhaven Bucks910.4743.5
Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots118.579
Gwinnett Astros710.4123
Choccolocco Monsters713.3504.5

Monday’s games
Choccolocco 11, Brookhaven 4
Columbus 12, Gwinnett 2
Gainesville 14, Atlanta Crackers 2
Waleska 7, Atlanta Blues 4

Wednesday’s Games
Atlanta Crackers at Gainesville, 5:35 p.m.
Choccolocco at Brookhaven, 5:35 p.m.
Columbus at Gwinnett, 6:05 p.m.
Waleska at Atlanta Blues, 6:05 p.m.

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