Chris Swauger's timing couldn't have been better.
Swauger's third homer of the game in the 10th inning broke a 6-6 tie as Double-A Springfield rallied past Tulsa, 8-6, in the opening game of their Texas League semifinal series Wednesday.
With the Cardinals trailing, 6-0, Swauger put them on the board with a solo homer in the fifth. One frame later, the 26th-round pick in 2008 by St. Louis cut the deficit to three with another solo shot, setting the stage for his 10th inning heroics.
"The last [homer] was 10th inning, two outs against Coty Woods, who's been the best reliever in the league all year," Swauger said. "A guy like that who doesn't give up runs and has good stuff, with two strikes, you're looking to put a ball in play. Thankfully, he left a ball over the plate and I got a piece of it. I got pitches over the plate and found some barrel. It's very rare to have a game like that, to do it in the playoffs the way our team played, that made it special."
Swauger had never homered three times in a game before as a pro entering Wednesday's contest. It's not something that would have occurred to the 26-year-old outfielder.
"I really don't think like that, I try not to," Swauger said. "Home runs are nice but the type of hitter I am, I am just trying to get something to put in play hard. Do you dream and think 'that would be cool'? Absolutely, but on a daily basis you're not thinking about that, you're just trying to grind out at-bats. It was a good night."
Rallying from a six-run deficit on the road in the playoffs is no easy task, but Swauger said the club didn't fret about that in the dugout.
"We've been saying all year that, no matter how many runs we get up or go down, we just want to apply pressure," the Florida native said. "Whether that's grinding out at-bats or making tough pitches, that's been our team goal -- to keep playing and keep playing hard. Tonight, it worked out really well for all of us. The thing is, if we would have ended up losing that game, we would have walked out there with our heads held high."
Swauger spent some time on the disabled list earlier this year and was just hitting his stride when the regular season ended, batting .361 with a homer and 12 RBIs over his last 10 games. It was important for the Citadel product to try and regain his swing before the playoffs started.
"It's one of those things where I missed almost of the month of August, just to be able to play those last 10 to 15 games, to be able to get a rhythm at the plate really helped," he said. "It's nice to have a nice little roll going into the playoffs, but the playoffs themselves are a whole other animal."
Springfield's bullpen contributed six shutout innings with Eric Fornataro picking up the win after allowing two hits over two innings. Keith Butler fanned one in the 10th en route to the save.
Nolan Arenado, the Rockies' No. 1 prospect, homered in the loss for the Drillers.
In other Texas League playoff action:
Frisco 6, Corpus Christi 5
Chris McGuiness hit a walk-off double in the ninth inning as the RoughRiders took Game 1 of their semifinal series. Val Majewski homered and Jared Hoying played a pair of runs for Frisco. Astros' top prospect Jonathan Singleton homered and drove in two runs in the loss for the Hooks. Gameday box score