Cloverleafs' Garrett Popplestone watches the throw to catch out Neepawa Farmers' Isaac Rodriguez stealing second base go awry during second inning MSBL final action, Sunday evening at Andrews Field. (COLIN CORNEAU)
Cloverleafs' Garrett Popplestone topples while trying to nab a hit to the outfield as teammate Mason Hughson looks on during second inning action, Sunday evening at Andrews Field. (COLIN CORNEAU / BRANDON SUN)
Bryan Swaenepoel lives for the baseball moment he got to experience at the end of Game 4 of the best-of-seven Manitoba Senior Baseball League championship series Sunday night at Andrews Field.
Down one with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Swaenepoel came up to the plate and ripped the ball to left field. That shot brought home Garrett Popplestone and Mason Hodgson and gave the Brandon Cloverleafs a 4-3 win over the Neepawa Farmers. It also gave the Leafs a commanding 3-1 series lead.
"I think anybody who plays wants to hit in that situation and get the runs," said Swaenepoel, who was 0-for-3 with one run prior to that at-bat. "It’s great."
"The rivalry’s intense here and there’s a lot of talking going back and forth," he continued. "To get a hit like that, since the first few innings didn’t go so well, it feels good."
The game was tight the whole way with neither team managing to lead by more than one run at any point in the game. Brandon grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first but trailed 2-1 after the top of the second.
The ’Leafs tied the game in the fourth when Swaenepoel came around to score, but they gave the lead back in the next half inning. Neither team could scored after that until the ninth.
Popplestone went 2-for-4 for Brandon with one run. Isaac Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with one run for Neepawa. Cam Tibbett and Jason Vinnell both went 1-for-4 with an RBI for the Farmers.
Greg Hockin took the loss for Neepawa after pitching eight-plus innings where he gave up four runs on seven hits and struck out nine. He left the game in the ninth after slipping and injuring his knee while fielding a bunt.
Justin Funk earned the win in relief of Brandon starter Zach Mayo. Funk allowed only one hit and struck out three in the final 31/3 innings. Mayo went 51/3 and gave up three runs on five hits while striking out five.
Swaenepoel admitted it was a huge relief to get the win on Sunday, especially when facing a quality pitcher like Hockin.
"Being up 3-1 is better than 2-2," he said. "Hockin pitched a great game, like he always does. To come out with a win when he’s throwing is big for us."
Farmers manager Mike Levandosky said it was tough to lose Sunday’s game, but he’s confident his players can bounce back on Tuesday when the series resumes in Neepawa at 6 p.m. He figures they just have to be a little more patient at the plate during each game to have a chance to beat the Cloverleafs.
"You just play ball," he said. "We have to hit the ball. We squandered a lot of chances (on Sunday). We had guys swinging when the count was 2-0. We have to be a little more patient. … It’s one game at a time and we’ll take it from there."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 13, 2012