Field of Dreams
Update (May 16): The baseball team begins its 2018 NCAA Tournament run in the Auburn, New York Regional on Thursday, May 17. The Garnet, looking to continue the winningest campaign in program history (33-9), open the double-elimination regional tournament against Baldwin-Wallace. Listen to head coach Matt Midkiff's interview with KYW Newsradio.
The Swarthmore College baseball team, led by Centennial Conference Coach of the Year Matt Midkiff, won its first-ever Centennial Conference Championship in thrilling fashion on Sunday, defeating the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, 4-3, in 11 innings.
Swarthmore (32-9) hadn't made the conference playoffs since 2010, when they went 1-2 in the tournament. This year, the top-seeded Garnet ran the table and won all three games they played, including two walk-off wins over Johns Hopkins. Sunday's championship was the definition of a pitchers’ duel. Ryan Warm '20 started for the Garnet and pitched 10 strong innings, allowing three earned runs while striking out four. Alex Ross started for Hopkins and pitched eight frames with 13 strikeouts.
The game remained scoreless until the fifth inning when Hopkins plated two runners on a sacrifice fly and a single. Swarthmore remained off the board through eight frames, but came alive in the ninth.
Tournament MVP Cole Beeker '20, who finished the game 4-for-4 with a walk, led off with a single and Jackson Roberts '19 doubled during the next at-bat. Conor Elliott '19 drove in two with a single to tie the game and put Swarthmore on the cusp of a title.
Hopkins used an intentional walk to load the bases with no outs, creating a possible force out at every base. The Blue Jays’ gambit paid off and they escaped the jam after a groundout and a double play.
Warm allowed a home run to the first batter in the inning, but in the bottom of the 10th, AJ Liu '20 and Beeker singled to keep the offense going. Holden Bridge '20 then tied the game with a sacrifice fly in his only plate appearance of the afternoon.
Ricky Conti '19 came on to pitch in the 11th inning and retired all three batters he faced. In the bottom of the frame, Jared Gillen '20, who hit a walk-off home run the previous day, led off with a double and advanced to third after a failed pickoff attempt.
Hopkins employed a similar strategy by intentionally walking the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. Swarthmore capitalized when Sam Jacobson '21 scored Gillen on a sacrifice fly and the Garnet faithful, packed in the stands and on the terrace of the PPR apartments, erupted in celebration.
Conti earned his 10th win of the season, breaking the program single-season record set by Joe D'Angelo '86 in 1985. Swarthmore's 32 wins are also the most in program history, five more than the record set in 1985.
The Garnet, which earned the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, await the Division III Baseball Playoffs Selection Show on May 14 to find out their next opponent and extend their record-breaking season.