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Swank’s work leads to impressive title performance

GERI SCHNURE/For the Sun-Gazette Devin Swank rounds third base after hitting a home run in the first inning against Loyalsock on Saturday.

HUGHESVILLE — His spring high school season taken away, Devin Swank continued doing what he had done since the 2019 campaign ended. He kept working and preparing.

So when Hughesville coach Chris Kish called on Swank to put out a sixth-inning fire against Warrior Run on Saturday, he was ready. This was exactly the kind of situation the Hughesville senior-to-be craved.

Swank entered the Independent Summer League semifinal against Warrior Run with no outs and the tying runs on base. He then struck out the side on nine pitches. Swank struck out two more in the seventh as Hughesville won, 9-6.

Swank was just warming up. He threw five strong innings in the final and hit a game-changing first-inning home run as Hughesville defeated Loyalsock, 11-3, and captured the championship. COVID-19 ended the high school season before it started, but Swank certainly validated his work and helped his team earn a meaningful championship.

“I had to have the killer mentality. It’s killer mentality all the time. All gas, no brakes and 100 percent,” Swank said. “I want the ball in that situation. That’s what all the work is for.”

Swank’s work paid dividends for Hughesville all summer. He performed well as a starter and reliever. He also sparked a potent offense from his leadoff spot in the lineup. Hughesville finished 13-1 and Swank’s fingerprints were all over the team’s success with him playing stellar defense in center field, too.

“Devin knew that he he had to go go out there and deal and that’s what he did,” second baseman Ian Gagliano said. “He knew what he had to do and he did it and gave us a big lift.”

As dominant as he was in closing out Warrior Run, Swank immediately ran into trouble against Loyalsock, which scored three first-inning runs. Loyalsock has built one of the state’s premier baseball traditions by excelling in big games. Loyalsock has also been a perennial thorn in Hughesville’s side.

But Swank started flipping the script with one swing.

After taking the first pitch for a ball, Swank jumped on a fastball and crushed it into the corn field behind Bodine Park’s left-field Green Monster. Loyalsock led 3-1, but Swank’s blast sent a message and fueled his teammates to ignite a 13-hit barrage.

Swank tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the second inning and Hughesville went ahead to stay two batters later when Gagliano scored on a wild pitch. But Swank’s first home run came with perfect timing.

“I was hitting well in cage and have been on a little bit of a streak, but never had that kind of power. It felt pretty good,” Swank said. “That kind of got the energy going and opened our eyes, showing we had a shot at this so let’s keep it going.”

“That was huge for us,” Gagliano said. “We needed that for motivation. As soon as he did that we knew we had it.”

Swank helped make sure of that. The crafty left-hander settled down after the first inning and allowed just two hits over his final four innings. He ended a second-inning threat by striking out Virginia Tech-bound Nick Barone and let just one runner reach second base.

He was not as overpowering as he was against Warrior Run, but Swank was equally effective relying on his strong defense. He also helped his own cause, picking a runner off first in the fourth inning to help squash a potential rally.

“It’s always great when you go in there and you have a defense playing behind you like that. You settle in then,” Swank said. “It’s a total team effort. We’re like a family.”

And Swank did his family proud.

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