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By Garvey Biggers

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.–  The Titan baseball team will say farewell to seven graduating seniors when the season ends in May. Those seven are also the only players who have witnessed the transformation of Westminster’s program under head Coach Kelly Swiney. WCN’s and Titan baseball player Garvey Biggers has more on how those seniors are crediting the coach for creating a culture of confidence for the team.

Catcher Alexander Hunter, a Communications Studies major,  has seen first-hand the transition between the former head coach, Tim Mulligan to Swiney’s leadership.  He explained there’s a significant difference between the baseball team today compared to his first two years.

“It was almost kind of a joke. I mean people knew the baseball team,” said Hunter. “They knew we joked around and that we were fun guys, but we didn’t really win a lot of games.”

Photo Credit: Jason Kapusta

The change came with the addition of hiring Kelly Swiney in the summer of 2017.  His time at the helm of the program by way of Allegheny College where he and his staff had plenty of success.  Players say Swiney took over the program as a full-time coach where the former couldn’t. In this commitment, Swiney has seen a few obstacles in achieving a positive change.

“I came from a program where I had been there nine years, and I developed it, and I built it up,” said, Coach Swiney. “I knew it was going to be a tough job and I’m finding out even this year, it was maybe tougher than of the things last year, so, it was a big change.  So you know it’s really building a culture, and it’s holding guys accountable. But then building a culture where they hold each other accountable. That’s a huge thing. And then I think the confidence comes with the high expectations. As a coach, you get frustrated sometimes, and usually, it’s because I believe the guys can do it. So when they don’t do it, it’s kind of like frustrating.”

The word for Swiney’s coaching philosophy for the Titans is best described as confidence. Players said the coach really drives that lesson home. 

“His big thing this year I think is confidence,” said pitcher Dante Parente.  “He’s a confident guy. And by him being confident, he wants us to be confident. And with a young team that we have Right now, nearly two dozen freshmen and that’s the biggest thing.  Coming into college, I feel

like some kids struggle with are they going to be good enough. And coach every day tells us confidence can win you games. Being confident allows you to succeed when nobody else thinks you can. 

This approach to coaching confidence has been ingrained in these seniors heads. And the ace of the pitching staffer senior Cory Pullen has seen it come true from his point of view.

“I think what’s different about these teams the past couple of years is we, we play every game like we have a chance to win it,” Pullen explained.  “The first two years I was here, we played up to our competition to a point, but there were a lot of teams where we went into the games thinking that we were defeated, but that’s what’s different about these teams, is we play every game as we can win it. And we do.”

Westminster’s baseball program has a rich and exciting history. And with coach Swiney at the reigns, players say it’s essential to have him in control. Swiney’s stressed to all the players the value of being a great student, a great ballplayer, and working through adversity. Also, being a great citizen and a teammate. The lessons coach has given us go far beyond the foul poles. The game itself has done so as well. The set of life and sports go hand in hand.

Anyone who’s played a college sport knows just how much each season means because you never know when it will be over. For Dante Parente, he tells us just how much this season means knowing this may very well be his ride out into the sunset.

“I mean the last year is always I fell the hardest knowing that it’s your last year. That there’s nothing after this. It’s hard, but you get excited about it. You get excited to give it everything you have. It’s all you can do, really. But, coming back, it was a ride, it was a journey, but being back with all the young guys and getting to see all them and really looking forward to the future of the program gets me really excited. And I couldn’t ask for a better team to spend my last year with, I really couldn’t.”

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