Swanson learning as he awaits his chance
On a windy Thursday afternoon the game was out of hand. The Eudora Cardinals baseball team laid a serious drubbing on league rival Wellsville, and it was time for some mop-up duty on the pitcher's mound.
On this day, the man with the mop was sophomore Kent Swanson.
The right-handed pitcher found himself cleaning up outs in a game that had been decided in the third inning.
Those outs and those innings, although meaningless at the time, have a lot of meaning for the future.
Swanson is one of a few pitchers who will need to learn fast on the varsity level in order to fill the approaching vacuum left by departing seniors Rod Evinger, Joe Kaup and Paul Smith.
The sophomore said he has watched the leaders of the varsity rotation and hoped to pick up on some of the things he'd witnessed.
"I watch those guys to see what kind of approach they have," Swanson said. "And I watch them to see how they work themselves out of bad situations."
He also knows that he'll have other things to think about when the seniors are gone.
"Those guys have an incredible work ethic," Swanson said. "It will be hard to replace them."
Even with the success of this year's team, the head coach still knows he will need to depend on Swanson in the years to come.
"He's got a lot of upside," coach Dirk Kinney said. "He's going to have to learn pretty quickly and step up next year."
Along with Kelson Boyer of Eudora's "C" team, Swanson hopes to move into the rotation of next year's varsity squad.
"I feel like I've done pretty well," Swanson said. "I have a lot of room to improve, so I think that I'll be ready when the time comes."
In the meantime, the junior varsity mound is where he gets the most work.
This year the sophomore has garnered attention as a consistent arm for the Cardinals. So far Swanson has amassed a 3-1 record and has allowed only five hits in 19 innings pitched. The junior varsity squad is 10-2 on the season.
On the varsity level, Swanson has logged only three innings, but it's all part of preparing for the future.
"Those innings are important," Swanson said. "They help me work on the things that I am going to need."
"He's doing great on the JV side," Kinney said. "But he needs to learn how to get the varsity hitters out. He may not get a lot of innings, but the work is important."
Swanson knows varsity innings may be hard to come by, but he's patient and knows he must keep his focus.
"I can't really worry about what the game situation is when I come in," Swanson said. "I'm just glad when I get in there."
For now however, it will be mop-up duty in lopsided games. But there are worse things than cleaning up late innings for a winning team.
"I think that I would approach things the same even if we were losing," Swanson said. "But being on a winning team helps."