Baseball Knocks Out Gettysburg, Haverford

               To say baseball is doing well right now would be one of the greatest understatements one could make on campus at the moment.  It’s almost difficult to put into words.  The Garnet have not lost back-to-back games in a month.  They have won 15 out of their last 17 games.  And in that stretch, they have had a five-game winning streak and a seven-game winning streak–and they already have strung three games together into a new streak.  By upsetting then nationally-ranked Haverford, Swarthmore helped knock the Fords out of the rankings this week.  Simply put, this team is on fire.

            With a 6-1 record in the Centennial Conference, the Garnet are sitting in second place right now, just one game behind #5 Johns Hopkins.  Designated hitter Scoop Ruxin ’15 said that while some people may be surprised, the team isn’t: “We were picked last in the preseason poll, but that has never meant anything to us because we have known from day one that we had the ability to be a very good team.”

            Ruxin added that during the streak, the Garnet have been “beginning to understand how good we can be,” while giving credit to just about everyone on the team.  That’s because the team has not been relying on one single leader, and has been winning on both the offensive and defensive ends, as Nicko Burnett ‘14 explained.  “For the most part we are playing well in every aspect of the game.  And when the bats aren’t as hot, the pitchers pick us up, or if a guy is struggling on the mound the bats have been doing the job.”

            Throughout the team’s stretch of exceptional play, the pitching staff has allowed four or fewer runs in 10 of 17 games.  Every one of the team’s starting pitchers has been throwing well.  Veterans Ramsey Walker ’13 and Luke Alventosa ’15 come to mind, and Ruxen pointed out, “Joe [Warren ’16] and Oscar [Leong ’16] have improved with every start they have made and both threw really well last week.”

            Even in the times when opposing teams figure out the Garnet starters, the team has been fortunate to have a reliable relief corps.  Matt Bertuch ’14, Sean Mangus ’13 and Nate Booth ’16 have each done tremendously when called upon to keep close games close or shut down an opponent.

            The Garnet aren’t winning on pitching alone though.  The team is a powerhouse offensively, scoring ten or more runs in seven of the last 17 games, including  the last three in a row.  But as Burnett pointed out, that kind of prolific-ness is not the work of one player.  “What has been great about the offense recently is that you can’t point to one guy and say he is the reason we’re winning.  We are getting production from the entire lineup which is what is allowing us to score so many runs.”

The team as a whole is batting .343 on the year, with an impressive .429 on base percentage.  Ruxin said knowing everyone can hit is good for the team. “When some people don’t hit well, others always step up for them.”

            By far, however, the team’s greatest asset in recent games has been their fighting mentality.  Where other teams might fold, the Garnet have realized that, as the great Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”  This has led to two impressive comeback wins in the last week alone.

            On Saturday, Gettysburg jumped on the Garnet early, running out to an intimidating 8-0 lead.  Except, the team didn’t respond by “panicking,” as Ruxin said.  Instead, they answered the Bullets’ attack and then some, responding with five runs in the next two innings to get within range, and then adding eight across the seventh and eighth innings to pull out a hard-fought 13-10 victory.  Then, rather than rest on their laurels, the Garnet carried that momentum into the second game of the doubleheader, smashing Gettysburg 14-3.

            Swarthmore pulled off the comeback again on Tuesday, this time against Washington.  Down by two in the eighth inning, the Garnet exploded for six runs to turn the tables and put the game out of reach.

            After last night’s XX against DeSales, the Garnet have a rough weekend in front of them.  On Friday, the team travels to Washington to close out the two-game series with the Shoremen, while Saturday brings a clash of the top two Centennial teams thus far, as Swarthmore plays host to #5 Johns Hopkins.

            First place in the standings is on the line, but Ruxin said the Garnet aren’t worried. “The great thing about these games is there is no pressure on us. We played without fear against Haverford because we knew that no matter their ranking, we had just as much talent as them…As long as we take that same attitude into Hopkins, we should be fine.”

            With that fearless style of play, the Garnet should prove to be a tough out against the Blue Jays.  The first game starts at 12:30, while the nightcap is scheduled for 3:30.

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