Update (May 28): The most successful season in program history came to an end on Sunday with a 13-inning, 3-2 defeat to Texas Lutheran University in the Division III Baseball Championship (also known as the College World Series). A day earlier, the Garnet notched its first-ever D3 championship tournament victory, beating Wooster College 10-5. That was a must-win for Swarthmore, which dropped its first game of the tournament to Concordia Chicago on Friday.
The dream season continues for the Swarthmore College baseball team.
For the first time in program history, the Garnet (37-9) have advanced to the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship Tournament (also known as the College World Series), winning its NCAA Regional early Monday morning following a 9-3 win over No. 24 Southern Maine.
Swarthmore won all four of its games in the regional tournament, taking out Southern Maine twice, No. 9 SUNY Cortland, and Baldwin Wallace. The Garnet, appearing in the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1985, has now won 14 games in a row, continuing a hot streak that included the program's first Centennial Conference championship.
"What makes this team special is the fight and determination they have," says head coach Matt Midkiff, who was recently named Centennial Conference Coach of the Year. "Whenever a big moment presents itself, this team rises to the occasion."
The final game began on Sunday at 9:20 p.m., and the Garnet found themselves down 1-0 in the top of the first inning. Tournament MVP Charlie Levitt '19 had Swarthmore's first hit in the bottom of that inning. It was one of his three triples and five extra-base hits in the tournament. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Jackson Roberts '19, and Cole Beeker '20 eventually scored on a passed ball to give the Garnet an early lead.
Southern Maine regained a 3-2 lead in the fifth and also loaded the bases with no outs. Charles Groppe '20 struck out the next three hitters. Those were the starting pitcher's final batters, and that was the turning point in the game.
In the bottom of the fifth, A.J. Liu '20 scored on a Levitt triple to tie the game. That was a common sight over the week as both players had 10 hits in 16 at-bats, accumulating .625 averages.
In that same inning, Swarthmore took a 5-3 lead that it would never give up. Levitt scored on a wild pitch, and Beeker scored on a bases-loaded walk issued to Matt Palmer '18. Max Kassan '18 came on to pitch the sixth, and he threw 1.2 scoreless innings. Zach Gonzalez '19 helped him close out the seventh by retiring the only batter he'd face.
Conor Elliott '19 provided the Garnet with an insurance run in the sixth on a groundout that drove in Liu, but the big separation came in the eighth inning. Roberts hit a double to left field that allowed Liu and Holden Bridge '20 to reach home. Roberts also scored the game's final run on an error.
Jack Corkery '20 shut the door as he has all season by pitching two scoreless innings and recording his eighth save.
In the title-clinching game, Levitt secured his MVP honor by going 4-for-4 with an RBI, two triples, two runs scored and a walk. Liu locked up All-New York Region Tournament Team recognition with a 2-for-4 game in which he scored three runs. Roberts and pitcher Ricky Conti '19 were also named to the all-tournament team.
The NCAA Division III Baseball Championship is set to take place from Friday, May 25, until Tuesday, May 29, at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis. More information will be added once available.