Ben Erdahl delivers a run-scoring single for Mars during the Planets’ come-from-behind 7-6 baseball win over Knoch on Thursday.
ADAMS TWP — It was the type of situation many high school baseball players dream of — bottom of the seventh, bases loaded, down by one. The pressure-packed moment didn’t bother Sam Swiatek. “That’s what I live for,” said the Mars right fielder. Swiatek belted the first pitch he saw into the gap in left-center field to score Alex Smith and Tyler Reginelli, lifting the Planets to a 7-6 win over Knoch in a WPIAL Section 5-AAA clash on Thursday afternoon at the Mars Athletic Complex. “I was just looking for a first-pitch fastball ... and I was ready to jump on it,” said Swiatek. “I just wanted to get a hit ... I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a nice surprise. I’m glad I could help the team get the win.” Knoch rallied from a 4-1 deficit to claim a 6-4 edge with a five-run fifth inning and maintained the advantage until the bottom of the seventh. Ben Erdahl led off the final frame with a single to left, before Smith blooped a base hit into shallow right. Matt Eperesi followed with a well-struck double into left-center field to trim the gap to 6-5. David Bednar drew an intentional walk — his fourth free pass of the game — to load the bases, paving the way for Swiatek’s heroics. “Ben Erdahl set the tone with a base hit right away. It kind of snowballed a little bit from there,” said Mars coach Brian Hobaugh. “Sam is a good fastball hitter, he threw him one and he drilled it.” Gavin Miller endured the loss for Knoch. He pitched a complete game and struck out six. After the Planets (4-1 in section play) touched him up for four runs in the first two frames, the right-hander settled down and allowed just one hit over the next four innings. “It was his game to win or lose,” said Knoch coach George Bradley. “I thought he was throwing effectively enough.” Knoch tallied six straight hits to start the fifth inning. Chase Voltz singled, followed by a Caleb Thorn double. Tyler Smith and Andy Fritz ripped RBI singles, before Hyte Eurich reached on a hard grounder that took a wicked hop and caught the second baseman Smith in the throat. After a brief delay, Smith — who nearly made the play, but Eurich barely beat the throw — stayed in the game. Matt Parrish relieved Eperesi, the Mars starting pitcher, to retire the final batter of the fifth and did not allow a run over the next two innings. “Can’t say enough about him, coming in and closing the door,” said Hobaugh of Parrish. “Super job. He helped us keep the game close.” The left-hander struck out two and did not walk a batter. Eperesi, a righty, hurled the first 4 2-3 innings and struck out six. The win keeps Mars within one game of Hampton for the section lead and a game clear of Knoch for second place.