Swarthmore opens D3 CWS Friday against Concordia University Chicago

Matt Leon
May 24, 2018 - 2:18 pm
Cole Beeker has set a program record this season for Swarthmore with 64 RBI.

Swarthmore College Athletics

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SWARTHMORE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The Swarthmore College baseball team will continue an incredible ride of a season Friday night when the Garnet open at the Division III College World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Swarthmore's first game in the double-elimination series will be against Concordia University Chicago.

The Garnet are 37-9 on the season and coming off a dominant run in the Auburn, New York Regional of the NCAA Tournament. They won all four games in the regional, punching their ticket to the World Series with a 9-3 win over Southern Maine Sunday night.

"As soon as we got the second out of that [ninth> inning, I kind of had a huge smile on my face," Swarthmore first baseman Cole Beeker said. "I was trying not to smile because we still had another out to get and usually the last out of the game is the hardest one to get, but I was overwhelmed. It was just an awesome feeling seeing that [fly> ball go up because [right fielder AJ Liu>, he's been awesome all year long, and as soon as the ball went up I knew it was getting caught [for the third out>. It was just overwhelming and it was really exciting."

Beeker is a big reason why Swarthmore is still playing this season. A left-handed hitting sophomore, Beeker is hitting .346 with seven home runs and a program record 64 runs batted in.

Swarthmore is having all of this success after a 2017 season that saw them go just 16-22. Beeker talked about the biggest difference in the 2018 team from a year ago.

"Last year, we were very young," he said. "The majority of our team were freshmen. So I think just having that time to grow and really develop and get stronger [was important> and just kind of learn who we really were as a team."

Ricky Conti is the ace of the pitching staff for Swarthmore. The junior right-hander talked about when he realized this group might have something special.

"When everybody came back over the summer and we started having fall practices," he said, "you could just see that there were a lot of guys that worked really hard and got a lot better. Jack Corkery, our main relief guy, he just busted his behind over the summer and he came back a stud. Cole Beeker and [infielder> Jackson Roberts, they put a lot of work in over the summer and they came back and now they're crushing the ball and stuff. So I think when we kind of sat down and looked at ourselves in the fall, we were just like, 'Wow, we have some potential to do a lot of damage here.' "

Ricky Conti has won a program record 12 games this season for Swarthmore College.
Swarthmore College Athletics

Conti has prevented opposing teams from doing much damage in 2018. He is 12-2 for the Garnet — the 12 wins represent a program record — with a sparkling 1.94 ERA. 

"I worked a lot with our pitching coach [Dan Gusovsky> throughout the fall and throughout the season kind of shaping my pitches," Conti said. "Working on developing different pitches and attacking the strike zone in different ways. I think through that, through starting off really strong, I just gained a really good sense of confidence, a really good sense of trusting in the pitches that I do have and trusting in myself. I think just that type of work is just kind of starting to show itself on the field."

This was just the second time Swarthmore qualified for the NCAA Tournament — 1985 was the other — and this is easily the most successful season in program history. Beeker is ready for the ride to continue.

"It's out first time being in this situation, so we kind of have nothing to lose," he said. "We're playing loose and being ourselves and we're having a lot of fun."

Swarthmore's first game against Concordia University Chicago gets underway Friday at 5:30 p.m.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleon1060.