Swegarden piling up strikeouts
Lake Park-Audubon sophomore pitcher Mason Swegarden has a pet peeve -- giving up walks.
But the Raider pitcher has a remedy for his pet peeve, he simply throws strikes.
A lot of them.
Swegarden has become one of the most dominating pitchers in the area, as the strong-armed sophomore already has struck out 63 batters in just 33 innings of work. His ball-to-strike ratio on the season sits at a 39-to-247 mark, while building a perfect 5-0 record with a paltry ERA of 0.85.
Impressive, but so is Swegarden's approach on the mound.
"I hate giving up free bases," Swegarden said. "But I like making (batters) look like fools, I live for that."
Swegarden has been enjoying the season, while opposing batters have been quite miserable against him, as the fast-working Raider mows through the lineup.
The success of Swegarden is based off his fastball, which maxes out at about 81-82 miles per hour.
It's his deadly accuracy which sets up his other two pitches, the change-up and breaking ball.
"Mason can throw hard enough to get it past batters, but he locates it so well," said LP-A head coach Taylor Fuhs. "He can locate it on the outer half of the plate and blow it past the weaker hitters.
"Against the better hitters, he mixes his speed up well. The big thing, though, is he's confident in his fastball."
A quick start is always another important factor for Swegarden, who doesn't waste much time in between pitches.
It's all about his rhythm and if he finds it, he usually is ahead in the count, which in turn will lead to plenty of bats swinging through the air.
"I'm confident in all three of my pitches and it's always key to start fast right off the bat," Swegarden said.
In Tuesday's 11-0 LP-A victory over visiting Fertile-Beltrami, Swegarden found that fast start by striking out the first three batters he faced in the top of the first inning.
From there, he had two strikeouts in each of the second through fourth innings. He put the bookend on his fifth victory of the season with three straight strikeouts in the fifth inning, to end the game with the 10-run rule.
With the ability to get ahead in the count early, which usually ends up with a strikeout, Swegarden doesn't throw a lot of pitches, as his 39-to-247 ball-to-strike ratio proves.
That enables Swegarden to reserve energy and become stronger as the game goes on.
"It seems in the third or fourth innings, I have a little extra on my fastball," Swegarden said.
Only a sophomore, Swegarden saw much action last year as a freshman, which helped him gain the necessary seasoning of learning how to pitch in certain situations.
Also pitching the ball where he wanted to was crucial for his confidence.
"He's mature beyond his years," Fuhs said. "He's a three-sport athlete (football and wrestling) and he has the opportunity to be a special player."
Swegarden's confidence is also transferred over to his teammates, who have given him good run support when he's on the mound, which just makes the Raider hurler that much more dangerous.
"It's nice getting that early lead, because I have more room for error and can be more aggressive," Swegarden commented.
Fuhs also sees a different team when Swegarden is on the field.
"When he pitches, everyone is more focused it seems," the LP-A coach said. "Although he strikes a lot of batters out, he keeps the defense on their toes.
"We just need that kind of focus out of our defense when our other guys pitch."
Swegarden is also a key component to delivering those runs, as well.
He is a prototypical leadoff batter with his .500 batting average, a .565 on-base percentage, along with good speed, which has led to 10 stolen bases.
His approach at the plate is similar as when he's on the mound -- aggressive.
"As a leadoff hitter, I don't want to wait and get behind in the count," Swegarden said. "I see myself as a good fastball hitter, so I usually go after the first couple of pitches."
Fuhs likes his leadoff hitter's style, especially when it produces results like it has.
"He is ready to jump on it and when he sees a good enough pitch, he explodes on it," Fuhs added. "Mason can hit and has speed, which makes up a good leadoff hitter."
Albeit pitching or hitting, one can be quite sure if a baseball is involved, Swegarden will turn the play into a success.
Just look at the numbers, they will tell you.