BATAVIA – All season, the Pine Valley Panthers have broken their huddles with a chant of “B-town,” affirming their goal to make a return trip to Binghamton for the state baseball final four.
They will have to come up with a new chant this weekend when they take the field in “B-town” for the second year in a row.
Tyler Swanson pitched a complete game and drove in the winning run Tuesday as Pine Valley (15-6) came from behind to beat V-Lyndonville, 3-2, in the Class D Far West Regional championship in front of a crowd of more than 300 at Dwyer Stadium.
The Panthers will play at 1 p.m. Saturday at MacArthur Park in Binghamton in the Class D state semifinals.
“It’s what we’ve been looking for all season,” Swanson said while holding the championship plaque in one hand and wiping his tears with the other. “We break down on ‘B-town’ every single game from the beginning until the end. To go to B-town after this season, it’s just amazing. We just really came alive right at playoffs.”
“We went to states last year but that was a senior-laden team,” Pine Valley coach Chris Buczek said. “I think that’s why this means so much because the experience level is a little bit lower.”
Lyndonville jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but Swanson sharpened his focus on the mound from there on out, getting out of the inning with the bases loaded and allowing just three more hits over the final six innings.
“I got more motivated as it went on,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t giving up at all.”
Pine Valley started its sectional playoff run by digging out of a 7-0 hole to beat Panama, so it wasn’t deterred by the early two-run deficit.
The Panthers’ rally started in the fifth inning when first baseman Jacob Wilcox beat the throw to first after dropped pitch on a called third strike. Pinch runner Dylan Granger then forced an errant throw on a double play ball that allowed Merle Wheeler to get to second. Talon Snyder then drove Wheeler home with a line drive double to right field that made it 2-1.
Spencer Sticek led off the top of the sixth with a single, stole second and got moved over to third by Winfred Nelson. Lucas Trombley drove Sticek in for the tying run and Swanson singled home Thomas Raiport to put the Panthers in front.
“In clutch situations, he has been the guy who has been doing it for us,” Buczek said. “His style would be to finish with a base hit to win the game.”
Swanson fired a fastball for the game-ending strikeout, his seventh of the game. He pumped both fists when the final out was made and dropped to his knees in front of the mound before getting gang-tackled by teammates.
“The staple of this team is their toughness,” Buczek said. “It really just came down to these guys aren’t done playing baseball. They really didn’t want to stop.”