Over spring break, the baseball team began its season by traveling to Fort Myers, Fla. and competed in five double-headers — 10 games total — all within six days. After waking up at 6 a.m. almost every morning and withstanding the toll that ten games of baseball can take on the body, the men returned home with an impressive record of 8-2.
Swarthmore faced teams ranging from those that equaled conference level play to those that gave freshmen the opportunity to make a first-time appearance that they might not get later in the season. “When you play five teams you’re going to get a range of competition,” right fielder Roy Walker ’16 explained. “There were definitely teams that we beat up on a little bit that were definitely on the lower spectrum and then other teams that got us ready for conference play.”
One of these conference-level teams, Salve Regina, served as both a longstanding rival and the most talented team they played over spring break. Both games against Salve Regina were close — the men won the first game 10-8 but went on to lose the second game 4-2. Walker was the MVP of the win as drove in six of the team’s ten runs in the first game.
However, teams like Salve Regina weren’t the only ones on the team’s schedule. “I think we played a couple of teams that were kind of weak,” closer Nate Booth ’16 added. “But the big thing is that we swept them and showed the bad teams that we’re better than them.”
One of the most notable and “absurd” sweeps, as pitcher Aidan Miller ’17 described it, was the last double-header the team played before returning back to Swarthmore, against St. Joseph’s College. The Eagles had just competed against the #9 team in the country and held their own against them, losing by only 1 run. The men knew that this game wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
“The first game against St. Joseph’s was super intense,” shortstop Wesley Fishburn ’17 explained. “We were 0-0 going into the sixth inning. Both of us had guys in a scoring position so it felt just like a conference game.”
Luke Alventosa ’15 pitched the first game’s shutout, striking out two and scattering just five hits. “Luke pitched really well,” Fishburn continued. “There were a couple of times where they had runners in a scoring position and Luke really helped hold them off. We had to play good defense and pitch well to shut it down.”
After a couple of close calls, the first game concluded with a Garnet win of 1-0. Although the men already secured one victory, the intensity from the first game remained well into the second game. “I was starting the next game preparing for a dog fight,” Miller explained. “I knew this was going to be an intense game and we had to give it everything we had.”
Although the expectation was another close game, the Garnet’s offense exploded in the bottom of the first inning after the Eagles weren’t able to get a run off of Miller. The men sent 15 batters to the plate, concluding the inning with a 10-0 advantage. They went on to destroy the Eagles 13-2. “It was a really great way to finish Florida, to clobber a team and leave on that note,” Miller said.
“The big message in that win was that we wanted to leave it on the field because we knew that we were coming back to Swarthmore,” Booth added. “And during spring break, you never want to hop on the bus after a loss.”
The team’s trip to Florida was not only a confidence booster but also helped show them the improvements they’ve made compared to last season. One of their biggest improvements from last season that helped propel them to earn their victories in Florida is the extra power their offense has gained. Last year, many of the teams’ wins were from low-scoring, close games that lacked the extra power from their offense to dominate the opposing team. However, Fishburn and Walker have both proven to be essential members at bat this season and led their team to explosive victories over the break. The pair have already combined for ten extra base hits, including a home run by Fishburn.
Booth is confident in his team’s abilities to make this powerful offense not an anomaly, but a pattern. “Walker and Fishburn both have shown a lot of extra power this year and I think it will help the middle of our lineup a lot. If we can get some pop in the middle of the order that’s going to be our key to really get in some runs and put teams away,” Booth said.
In addition, Miller and Booth have proven to be talented on the mound and have continued last season’s strong pitching performance into this season, helping the bullpen earn the nickname of “bullpen island.”
“We like to put the other teams out on an island where they’re kind of stranded,” Booth explained. “We like to leave guys out on base, strike guys out, you know, get nasty with it.”
Fishburn commented on Miller’s emergence as one of the top starting pitchers. “Sometimes you get good Aidan, sometimes you get bad Aidan,” he said. “But this year it seems like we’re getting good Aidan all the time — Aidan’s as good as there is in our conference.”
Booth has also performed impressively this season, drawing closer and closer to breaking the school’s record in saves. “He’s had three appearances and three saves so you can’t really ask for more from a closer,” Walker said. Booth proved his versatility in Wednesday’s 9-7 victory over Eastern, working five innings to earn the win in long relief.
Upon returning to Swarthmore after an incredibly successful spring break trip, the team faced Cairn University in a home game and continued to destroy their competition, concluding the game with an almost ridiculous score of 21-0.
“We have four games this week,” Booth commented before the Cairn game. “And based on what we know about the other teams, we definitely feel that we should dominate them.”
If Cairn believed they belonged on the same field as the Garnet, they must have been looking at the wrong scoreboard. The men went on to add another name to their list of the fallen opponents after they defeated Eastern University 9-7 on Wednesday, coming back after trailing 5-2 early in the game. The team’s current season record is 10-2 and the players hope to extend their six game winning streak as they face Penn State Brandywine in a double header this Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m.