Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The Columbus baseball team has had a tough season. After 14 games, they are winless.
The low point came June 2 when they traveled to New London where the Tigers scored 37 runs in the first inning, a new state record for runs scored in a single inning, tying a national record.
Despite the tough times they have faced, the Columbus team is surprisingly upbeat.
“It was pretty tough, but you know we got back up, we said, ‘We’re not going to be handled like that anymore,’ because it was just flat-out embarrassing,” said Will Schwab, who graduated in May and is playing his last season.
On a recent afternoon, sounds of laughter along with the pings of baseballs being hit against the metal fence could be heard hours before the game, showing the evident closeness of the team.
“Most teams will bicker back and forth at each other, but compared to most teams that I’ve been to, this is probably the closest (team) that I’ve had,” coach Nick Swanson said. “The morale is pretty good here.”
Laughter is exchanged for critiques during typical practices, where Swanson leads the team in “intense” and “gamelike” drills.
“I think the atmosphere is pretty high tempo, we try to get as energetic as possible so that transfers over to the game,” Schwab said.
The Wildcats fell short to Mediapolis last week, with a score of 21-0 invoking the mercy rule once more, ending the game after the fourth inning. This week, they lost to Pekin in a doubleheader, 13-0 and 25-0.
That evening, the blue hue of the Columbus baseball uniforms could make fans wish they were in a cool pool instead of sitting in foldable chairs, sweltering in 95-degree heat.
Dark clouds rolled in, foretelling another tough evening as the Wildcats began to play what became a short game. Lightning delays stalled the game after the top of the second inning.
When it comes to preventing a game like the one on June 2 from recurring, Swanson hopes to transform the mindsets of players.
“They’re used to losing, and they try to keep that in their head that they come up with excuses that it’s OK to lose, and so for me, I wanted to get out of there as quickly as we could and just refocus,” Swanson said.
Swanson is in his second year of coaching the Wildcats and is hoping to build a foundation that can be sustained for seasons to come. The 16 players on the roster are mostly younger players. There are just four seniors and three juniors. Three eighth-graders play on the team.
The Wildcats most recent non-losing season was in 2009, with a record of 9-9. The team has won 18 games since then, with the exception of the year 2019 when there was no varsity team.
The team has not won a single game the past two seasons.
“When I first got here, not to say that their culture wasn’t good, but I’m a different type of coach, I expect different things, and they weren’t used to that,” Swanson said. “We have to try to build championship-type practices to make sure we win games in the future.”