Entering the 2019-20 season, the Bloomsburg University Baseball team was primed for a strong season and looking to add their second straight Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championship.
Their championship defense starting out as promising as ever, going 9-1 through their first 10 games and in the midst of an eight-game winning streak before COVID-19 wreaked its havoc amongst collegiate seasons. To add more salt on an open wound, the Huskies were on the cusp of starting their real championship defense in conference play as they were slated to toe the diamond against the Golden Bears of Kutztown University after spring break.
Two big cogs vital to Bloomsburg’s success this season were seniors Chad Cooperman and Cole Swiger. Cooperman entered this season apart of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) All-Region First Team and lived up to that billing leading the team with a .467 batting average at the plate, along with 22 strikeouts (second-highest on the team) in his first three appearances through 10 games.
Swiger also desired to build off of an impressive 2019 campaign that saw him earn Second Team All-PSAC honors. Akin to his teammate, Swiger hit the ground running this season leading the team in home runs with two, runs scored at 10, and a top-three slugging percentage of .581.
With both of their senior seasons unfolding remarkably well initially, the sudden devastating news left the team “all pretty heartbroken” according to Swiger.
“There was obvious disappointment when the season was canceled. We kind of knew it was coming as more and more leagues and conferences were being shut down, but once it actually happened it became an emotional day” Cooperman followed.
Coaches and staff were quick to console their team amidst the devasting news. While the meeting was described as “difficult” according to Swiger, the main message administered by the staff emboldened the Huskies to remain resilient, maintain their skills, and return next year motivated as ever to pick up where they left off Cooperman elaborated.
Forced into home quarantine, however, means training and keeping their skills sharp would be a challenge, but one both athletes ventured into with the necessary creativity. Swiger explained his training days are pretty down to earth, riding his bike and playing catch with his dog. Cooperman, meanwhile, has access to more traditional training means making use of his basement for throwing and lifting exercises while also accessing online workout routines.
Even though the outcome for the spring season turned out disastrous, spring athletes have a little light at the end of the tunnel with possessing the option of returning thanks to an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA.
Cooperman plans on taking full advantage of that granted extra year, Swiger, on the other hand, explained there’ll be factors he needs to consider before making a final decision to return next season.
For Swiger, the considerations facing him potentially postpone professional opportunities he initially had lined up for himself.
“This pandemic affected my plans like it has affected most spring collegiate athletes. Just an extremely shocking turn of events that happened so fast. I also now have to consider passing on starting a full-time job in June because I may be coming back to play another year. At this point, I’m just taking day-by-day and trying to be as patient as possible” Swiger detailed.
Cooperman, fortunately, has been afforded some leeway during this period of revolving uncertainty.
“I had a job lined up as a category manager at PPL Electric Utilities. PPL is allowing me to come back as an intern in the summer and will hold my full-time position until the following June. I am very thankful for their flexibility in this weird time.”
Circumstances similar to this hit the hardest though when time with friends and family becomes significantly diminished, and it’s even harder when a band of brothers like Bloomsburg baseball suffers that reality.
“I miss being around all my teammates the most since the season was canceled. None of us were prepared for anything like this and we were a very close group of guys, so it’s been tough not taking the field with my best friends” Swiger relayed.
“I miss everything about the team. On the field, off the field, we had an incredible bunch of guys. I am however thankful I get one more year of playing with them” added Cooperman.
Never fully knowing how this season would’ve ended up for the Bloomsburg baseball squad will leave a void for a long while, but there is optimism in the fact a good amount of the core contributors will return looking to end their collegiate careers the right way.