BATAVIA - A junior on last year's Pine Valley baseball team that lost to Oriskany in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D semifinals, Tyler Swanson knew he wanted the responsibility of leading the Panthers back to Binghamton.
The senior hurler did just that Tuesday as he tossed a complete game while delivering the eventual game-winning hit in the top of the sixth inning, as the Panthers beat Section 5's Lyndonville, 3-2, in the Far West Regionals at Dwyer Stadium.
"I think Tyler wanted that role," Pine Valley coach Chris Buczek said. "It's not that he's happy that Zach (Fancher) and Lyle (Howard) are gone, but he's cherished it like, 'It's my time,' and 'I want to step in and take care of it and I want to do work.'"
Swanson allowed two first-inning runs on two hits and three walks before shutting down the Tigers the rest of the way on four hits. He finished allowing five hits and five walks while striking out seven.
"I never let the hits get me down," Swanson said. "I just tried to let it go and worry about the next pitch."
"He kind of kept us off-balance with some off-speed stuff and we were just out in front or on our back foot for most of the day," Lyndonville head coach Shane Price added of Swanson.
Down 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning, Talon Snyder delivered a two-out RBI single to get the Panthers on the board, but ended the rally after being cut down at third trying to advance on a wild pitch.
"I just told them that they were on the pitcher," Buczek said of his message after the top of the fifth inning. "And that it was going to happen, it just had to happen in time and to just stay on it and keep doing what they were doing and not to get mad with what was going on."
That could have been a turning point for the Tigers, but the Panthers didn't back down, as they came back to take the lead for good in the sixth.
"It was pretty big," Price said of getting Snyder. "You shut down a rally at that point and you still think you have a chance. We were hoping that we could come in and put up a couple of runs, but (Swanson) kept us off balance."
Spencer Sticek reached on an error to begin the sixth, before stealing second and moving to third on a fielder's choice off the bat of Winfred Nelson. Lucas Trombley followed with an RBI groundout to score Sticek with the tying run, before Thomas Raiport and Josh Kilburn singled to set put two runners on. Swanson then delivered his biggest hit of the season as he lined a clean single to center field to chase home Raiport with the eventual game-winning run.
"Tyler, the last four games, has been huge," Buczek said. "He's carrying himself right now with a way different attitude. He's more focused, has more desire and more heart. You can't really put words on it to describe where Tyler's come from and what he's doing right now. He's our bus driver. He's taking us through."
The Tigers threatened in the bottom of the seventh as Justin Edwards and Brandon Schoolcraft had back-to-back one-out singles, but Swanson settled down and got Ty Hrovat to fly out to left and Eddie Silversmith swinging to start the Panthers' celebration on the mound.
Lyndonville scored its runs in the bottom of the first on a two-out bases-loaded walk to James Ianni that chased home Schoolcraft and a wild pitch that scored Hrovat.
"Those two runs, I think it was nice for us to get them out of the way early," Buczek said. "It was just more motivation for them to keep hacking at it and going at it. The last game we sat on a lead and they got a little lazy. (Tuesday) I liked that they attacked the situation."
The Tigers had a chance for more as Edwards and Schoolcraft singled to start the first and Hrovat walked. But Spencer limited the damage by striking out Eddie Silversmith and getting Austin Buckland to hit a fielder's choice to Nelson at short, who promptly threw home to retire Edwards at the plate. After a walk to Austin Bane re-loaded the bases, Swanson got Chris Scroger swinging to end the threat.
From there, both pitchers took command of the game until Edwards ran out of gas in the fifth and the Panthers began their comeback.
Edwards who surrendered just one hit through the game's first four innings, allowed five hits, struck out six and walked one.
Up next for the Panthers will be a trip down I-86 to play either Section 2's Fort Ann or Section 10's Huevelton. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start on Saturday at McArthur Park's Conlon Field in Binghamton.
"It's been a surprising ride," Buczek concluded. "But a heck of a fun ride."