In the spring of 2018, filled with nerves, Ben Swords walked up to the plate for the first time with the Webster Gorloks. The one thing he recalls from his first at bat was it being horrible. He remembers swinging at every pitch, even though they weren’t within the strike zone.
“I swung at three straight pitches that weren’t even close to being strikes,” Swords said. “I was just super nervous.”
At the next at bat for Swords, he was able to connect, hitting a ground ball toward first. This was the first of many hits for Swords.
On April 3, what started off as a bad day of hitting for Swords turned into a day of history. The third baseman for Webster was 0-5 at bat, not having a single hit heading into the ninth inning against Westminster College. However, at the top of the final inning, Swords was able to connect on his sixth time at the plate, hitting the ball right between first and second base. This was Swords’ 227th hit of his career at Webster, which broke the all time hit record for the university.
Swords said, at the time, he didn’t know this hit broke the school record. According to him, he was just relieved to finally get a hit after struggling the majority of the game. It wasn’t until Sword made it to first base when he found out he broke the record.
“I didn’t get a chance to get a whole lot of hits my junior year during COVID and this was like the make up for it,” Swords said. “It was nice to hit that milestone.”
The previous all time hit record was set in 2002 by Patrick McSheehy. McSheehy was inducted into the Webster Hall of Fame in 2010. Along with holding multiple records in baseball for the Gorloks, he was also a four time All-Conference for the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) in soccer and the Player of the Year for soccer in 2000.
Head Coach Bill Kurich called Swords one of the best offensive players Webster has ever seen. According to Kurich, Swords has been impactful for the team throughout his time at Webster.
“Since his freshman year [Swords] you’ve gotten bigger, stronger and smarter,” Kurich said. “He has really grown into a really difficult guy to get out. He has figured out how to be really good everyday.”
Swords has started in every game since his freshman season. He has been named All-Conference every season of his collegiate career and was even an All-American in 2019. Along with this, Webster Athletics placed him on the All-Decades team for 2010s.
Swords said he was excited about Webster as a freshman after being told he would be starting right away. He also remembers being very nervous for the same reason.
One thing that helped his nerves is the coaching staff, according to Swords. He said having assistant coaches who were past players was very fortunate for him. Along with those coaches, he credits Kurich for keeping him on the right path in the sport defensively and offensively. He also credits Zach Bishop, who coaches at Westminster College now, for helping him develop as a hitter.
“[Kurich and Bishop] combined really pieced it together for me over the years,” Swords said. “They helped boost my confidence for me over the years and kept telling me, ‘You’re a great hitter and you’re going to have a great career here.’”
Kurich said he was really excited when he was recruiting Swords. Swords came from Freeport High School in Illinois, where he was coached by Roger Fegan. Fegan was one of Kurich’s former players. Fegan played at Concordia University Chicago when Kurich was an assistant coach there.
“Roger called me about [Swords] and was like, ‘Hey, I have a really nice player here,” Kurich said. “We were excited to see him.”
Kurich said Fegan brought the entire team to visit Webster after this talk, which was Swords’ junior year of high school. Swords found comfort in going to a school where he can play for someone who his high school coach also played for. He was able to get advice from Fegan on what it would be like playing for Kurich.
Swords remembers coming to Webster and starting his first time for the Gorloks as a freshman. He compared his first hit of him to his 227th hit of him, calling them both surreal.
“That first hit was like, ‘Wow, I just got my first college baseball hit’ and that is something I have been wanting to do my entire life, play college baseball,” Swords said. “Finally getting that milestone done was really cool. Breaking the hit record after four full seasons was probably even more surreal. Holding that record for such a well-known program throughout the country is a cool feeling.”
Swords’ teammates were supportive of him when he broke the record. He said they were mostly excited, as they knew it was going to happen. He said they also gave him a hard time after not having a hit all day up until his last at bat. He said they all got to laugh about that as Kurich called a time out to record the record hitting ball from the other team.
According to Swords, when he is having bad hitting days, he just tells himself not to change anything. He said things usually fall into place if he trusts the process and keeps doing everything right.
“Baseball is a very unforgiving sport,” Swords said. “You are going to fail more than you will succeed. I have to understand and know that my skill and the player I am is not defined by one game or even one season. The work that I’ve put in is going to pay off at some point. So I just keep a straight head on and go out there and have fun.”
The Gorloks are currently ranked 11th in the nation for National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III baseball according to D3Baseball.com. The team’s record is 30-5 right now, as the team is on a 20 game win streak. The Gorloks have five more games before they head into the SLIAC Tournament.