For Brookfield East seniors T.C. Swittel and Jake Smith, beating crosstown rival Brookfield Central, 6-3, on June 16 at Central was not just another Greater Metro Conference victory.
It was much bigger than that. The Spartans won a 4-3 decision at home in the first meeting May 24 and now have a sweep of the series.
'It's big for the senior class,' Swittel said. 'We haven't beaten them once ever since we've been playing as freshmen. It's great to sweep them. Beat them at our place and then beat them here.'
Swittel had a big day at the plate, with two singles and a triple, but he was low-key about what he did with his bat.
'I think the bounces went my way, a couple of bloop hits, an infield hit and the last one was a solid hit,' he said. 'My swing felt really good tonight. I think our team played really well.'
Big first inning
East scored five runs in the first inning off sophomore Adam Baade, who deserved a better fate, as the Lancers' lack of defense allowed two unearned runs.
Senior Jake Smith and Travis Styer stopped the Lancers on nine hits, as Smith walked two and fanned two, and Styer finished with two shutout innings.
The fast start helped the Spartans, according to Swittel and Smith.
'That was great,' Swittel said. 'That allowed Jake to pitch with a lead and with a nice cushion. We could be a little lenient.'
Smith, who said sweeping Central was 'awesome, it was a really great feeling,' had his own thoughts on the big first inning when asked if it helped him relax.
'I wouldn't say relax, but we came in with a pretty good mind-set,' he said. 'I just pitched the ball, and the defense made the plays and gets the outs. I had the same mind-set at the plate just hitting the ball.'
The Spartans defense was superb, which was nothing new for Smith.
'They always make good plays,' he said of his teammates. 'They've been very solid. We've been playing really well. We've had two slow years (9-19, 7-24), so it's good. I love winning.'
East coach Nicholas Wycklendt talked about the five runs his team quickly put on the board.
'The first inning was big,' he said. 'In a game like this with a crosstown rival where you can throw out the record books, it's good to get the momentum right away.'
Wycklendt was also pleased with his senior pitcher's performance.
'He was pitching very well, getting ahead in the count,' he said. 'He's a gamer. I knew he would keep us in it.'
Smith also helped his own cause with two runs batted in. East had 14 hits, and Sam Gauger and Qunn Hydiunk had two hits and an RBI each. Styer also helped at the plate with two hits.
Dillon Sehmer had two hits and an RBI, and Jonathan Osman added a single and a double.
With the three top pitchers injured, it has been a tough season for the Lancers, who are 1-11 in the GMC and 2-16 overall. But Bigler feels some good could come out of a bad situation.
Getting a break
'Adam (Baade) did a good job today,' Bigler said. 'Because of injuries, we have pitchers pitching who normally wouldn't be pitching at this level. It's a break for him and a challenge. We talked to him about not trying to do too much.'
East led 6-0, but Central scored single runs in the fourth fifth and sixth innings to stay in the game.
'We talked about that,' Bigler said. No matter what the situation, we're a proud baseball program. Whether we win the game or not, we're going to keep battling.'
The Lancers have done a decent job at the plate.
'I think we've had good approaches all year,' Bigler said. 'We have a lineup that can do some damage. It's shown it can compete against some of the better pitching.
'We just have to play better defense. I think if we can get healthy late in the season, who knows.'