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Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2007

Swanson slams door on school record

April 29, 2007

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— E.J. Swanson was surprised. The Free State High junior pitcher-outfielder had no idea he had broken the school single-season saves record.

"I had no clue," Swanson said after saving Saturday's 10-6 and 10-7 wins over Olathe South and Blue Valley North, respectively. "I don't pay attention to those things. But it feels good to know that."

Swanson recorded saves No. 5 and No. 6 as the Firebirds hiked their season record to 10-1 during the hastily scheduled twinbill at College Boulevard Activities Center. Scott Heitshusen had established the record with five saves during the Firebirds' 2006 Class 6A state championship season.

"At the beginning of the season, coach (Mike) Hill and I talked about me taking the Heitshusen role," Swanson said. "It feels good to have them rely on me."

Not that Swanson is Mr. Automatic.

"Every once in a while," teammate John Wilson said with a smile, "he makes it interesting."

In Saturday's first game, Hill called on Swanson with one out in the seventh inning and two Olathe South runners in scoring position, and the hard-throwing right-hander fanned the next two hitters to slam the door quickly.

In the second game, Swanson was called on to produce the final four outs. He succeeded without allowing a run, but it was an adventure. BV North touched him for three walks and a pair of singles. The Falcons had the bases loaded in the seventh when Swanson coaxed Matt Reed, who had homered earlier, to fly out to center field, probably just in the nick of time, too.

"I was starting to get fatigued. One of my calfs was cramping," Swanson said. "I had to fight through it."

Most of the Firebirds were weary in that second game because they were playing in their first doubleheader of the season under a cloudless sky in lower-80 degree temperatures.

"My legs were starting to cramp up," said senior Andy Petz, who caught both games. "I'm going home and icing them tonight."

Swanson, who was also the Firebirds' most productive batter on the afternoon, wasn't planning to go dancing, either.

"I'm going to ice my arm and stay off my legs," he said. "They're tired."

Legging out a pair of triples, one in each game, no doubt compounded Swanson's leg weariness. On the day, he went 4-for-7, scored four runs and drove in three.

Free State won both games despite being out-hit. O-South had a 10-6 edge in hits, but the Falcons' pitchers plunked six Firebirds with pitches and four of them scored. BV North out-hit Free State, 12-10, but left 11 runners stranded, thanks in part to Swanson.

"He's developing into that role," Hill said. "Having a closer at the high school level is not common, but he's accepted it, and done well with it."

Free State was supposed to play at Olathe South on Friday night, then entertain Blue Valley North on Saturday afternoon. But when the O-South game was rained out, Hill masterminded the unusual doubleheader at CBAC.

Several other previous rainouts will force the Firebirds to play nine games in 14 days - four next week and five the following week.

"The next two weeks are going to be grueling," Hill said. "It's really going to test our depth."

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