This past spring break, the baseball team escaped Swarthmore’s notoriously inclement winter weather and took a week-long trip to the Sunshine State. With great facilities, warm weather, and challenging competition at their disposal, the team was able to remove themselves from the snowed-in boundaries of the gym and finally play on the field. But with only one day off and double headers all other days, their stay in Florida was anything but a vacation.
Every game day consisted of at least 5 hours or more of baseball with the first game starting at 10 a.m. and the second game ending by around 3 p.m. “We generally didn’t have a lot of down time,” Matthew Bertuch ’14 remarked. “It was tough dealing with the heat and the exhaustion, our guys were falling asleep right after games at 4 p.m.”
This intense amount of gameplay during spring break has successively increased for the past 3 years. The increase started with 8 games in Arizona two years ago, 9 games last year at Tampa Bay, and concluded this year at Fort Myers with a whopping 10 games in 6 days. “Our schedule was really hectic playing double headers every single day,” John Lim ’16 said. “We were a little tired for some games, but that’s what every day will be like come conference season. It served as a great tester for us,” he said.
“We’ve been stuck inside the gym all spring, so Florida was definitely a good experience to toughen us up for competition,” Bertuch commented.
With all of their pre-break games cancelled due to Swarthmore’s stubborn weather, the men were unable to practice on a field with one another before the start of spring break. This left them a little rusty in terms of their gameplay compared to seasons past. Returning home with a record of 6 wins out of 10 was rather disappointing to the team.
“Traditionally, we have come back from our spring break matches with a great record,” Daniel McMahon ’15 said. Two years ago the team returned undefeated and last year they left with a record of 6-3. But with opponents such as Salve Regina University, who lies just outside the top 25, as well as Kenyon College, who placed as a playoff team in their conference, this year’s competition was definitely a challenge.
“But even though the record wasn’t necessarily as good, I think the competition that we saw really established that we can play with a lot of different teams at a very high level,” McMahon explained. “It was by far the best level of competition we’ve seen on spring break and I think it helped us establish a level of confidence within our team.”
By acknowledging and powering through the tough losses, the athletes were able to support one another and create a stronger, more resilient team going forward. “I feel like now we have a greater sense of identity,” Lim added. “We left a couple games out there that we definitely could have won, but the way we bounced back from those tough losses told me a lot about our team’s strength.”
Head Coach Matt Midkiff also commented on the trip’s ability to help identify the team’s strengths. With the last year’s graduation of key power bats, the pitching staff’s spring break performance has filled the offensive void and become one of the team’s biggest strengths. “I think we have some really good young talent and our pitching is very deep,” he remarked.
“Our pitching staff is going to be pretty solid this year,” Bertuch added. “Three quarters of our starters didn’t allow in a run over 7 innings, so I think that was a defining moment for us.”
In addition, the freshmen proved that they will be an indispensable asset this season. Several of them have had to step up on the team and fill in the spots left by last year’s graduating seniors. “I thought they did really well across the board during our spring break,” McMahon reflected. “I’m really excited about their development this season,” he added.
But aside from analyzing their team’s performance, the men managed to squeeze in some good- natured tomfoolery into their spring break as well. The majority of their free time was spent giving one another a series of dares ranging from serenading random married couples on the street to jumping into hot tubs with strangers and making small talk. “I was dared to read a poem by Langston Hughes to a couple and then applaud my own performance,” Lim reminisced. “It was great. I definitely think that we had bonded a lot more during this trip.”
Midkiff also emphasized the importance of the relationship the athletes have with one another. “I really like the chemistry of the guys and I think this team will continue to improve with every game we play,” he said.
As the team heads towards conferences only one week away, the men as well as their head coach, are confident in their abilities and are looking forward to the road ahead. “I am very confident in our team,” Midkiff added. “Every series will be a battle and very exciting baseball to watch.”
“Spring break was a positive experience,” Lim concluded. “I can’t wait to battle out the rest of the season.”