After the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, uncertainty abounds in baseball teams across the state. For Swanton, that uncertainty is amplified.
Not only do the Bulldogs have a new coach since last time they took the field, they also lost a large and talented senior class from 2019. Because of that, they have just one returning letter winner on the squad.
Among those lost to graduation after 2019 were Hunter Mix, who was first team all-league and Michael Lawniczak, who was second team all-league as a senior. Both are now playing at Lourdes University.
Graduating in 2020 was Billy Nowakowski. He was second team All-NWOAL as a junior in 2019.
The lone returnee is senior Devon Crouse, who is a pitcher and outfielder.
That inexperience will be a weakness, according to Coach Josh Siewert, who was set to debut as head coach last year before the season was canceled. However, he said that his players are coachable and athletic.
Newcomers include Blake Szalapski (P, OF), Trent Weigel (P, utility), Jason Newman (P, OF), Hunter Gowing (P, IF), Ryan O’Shea (P, IF), Garrett Swank (IF), Sam Dominique (IF), Lucas Bloom (utility), John Heckert (P, C), Kaden Curtis (C), Austyn Gossett (C, utility), and Caleb Ostrander-Bowser (utility).
“Even though we are very inexperienced, we have good team chemistry,” Siewert said. “And if we can learn something from every game we play, I believe we will be able to compete with anyone.”
In the NWOAL, Archbold is the defending league champ, while Swanton was 3-4 in league play in 2019.
“I think we play in one of the toughest leagues around, it will be a grind,” said Siewert. “It will be interesting for every team having last year off. I’m not sure how many teams lost multiple seniors over the last 2 years, but everyone will have some inexperience on their roster.”
The Bulldogs open the season at Springfield on Saturday, with a home opener against Evergreen on Monday.
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010