By Greg Gulas
When Baird Brothers pitcher Zach Rohaley gave up three runs in the opening inning Monday against Knightine Embroidery, he wasn’t worried.
Neither was his manager, Don Pletcher.
Rohaley struck out six and scattered eight hits while his catcher, Dylan Swarmer, roped three hits, scored a run and added a run batted in to lead Baird to a 7-3 victory over Knightline.
The win gives Baird a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five Class B League 18U championship series.
Game No. 4 begins today at 6 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 will follow.
“The hops were deadly today for both teams and especially for us in the first inning,” said Rohaley, this year’s Pennsylvania 6A pitcher of the year.
“They really didn’t make solid contact in that first inning.
“I just tried to keep them off-balance the rest of the game.”
Rohaley’s needed 94 pitches to complete what he started. After facing eight batters in the opening frame, he faced 21 batters over the final six innings.
“I threw more fastballs and a lot of two-seamers, just trying to keep them guessing,” Rohaley said.
Swarmer said his pitcher had an excellent command, even in the first inning.
“The key tonight was that Zach didn’t have an exceptionally high pitch count,” Swarmer said. “He had good location the entire game.”
Knightline sent eight batters to the plate in the opening inning as they opened a 3-0 advantage.
Colton Stoneman led off the game with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kevin Pollock and then moved to third on a single by Kole Klasic.
Klasic and Stoneman then executed a double steal with Stoneman scoring the first run of the game.
Consecutive run-scoring singles by Zach Yaksulka and John Ritter made it a three-run lead.
Baird loaded the bases off Knightline starter Devin Higginbotham in the first inning but failed to score.
Higginbotham wasn’t as lucky in the second frame, although he escaped with minimal damage.
Singles by Jake McCaskey and Dylan Swarmer, and a walk to Jacob Keene loaded the bases for the second time in as many innings.
With one away, Dayln Brickner’s sacrifice fly plated McCaskey for a 3-1 deficit.
Baird loaded the bases for a third straight time, only this time they made Higginbotham and Knightline pay.
They scored five runs, chased Higginbotham and opened a 6-3 margin.
“After the first inning, there was no panic by either team,” Pletcher said. “Zach has been in games like this before and there was no doubt that he would settle in. This team comes to the park ready to play and is all business.”
The third stanza was highlighted by run-scoring singles off the bats of Ty Smith, Swarmer and Keene.
Baird added an insurance run in the sixth inning with two away when Josh Hoffman’s double plated Swarmer to make it 7-3.
“Baird is the type of team that can explode at any time and they showed you that explosiveness tonight,” Knightline manager Tom Otto said. “The third inning took away our momentum and we just have to avoid innings like that.
“There’s still two games remaining, and we feel good about our chances,” Otto said. “Anytime you put the uniform on, especially with a group that has been together so long, like this group, you feel good about your chances.”