For local fans in Mebane and around Alamance County looking for a cure to their no baseball blues this summer, they’ve had to look no farther than Swepsonville Ballpark - a beautiful structure of wood and metal that harkens back to another era.
Located at 1006 W. Main Street in Graham, tucked away a couple hundred yards off Swepsonvillle-Saxapahaw Road and separated from the banks of the Haw River only by a collection of large evergreen trees, Swepsonville Ballpark is a hidden gem - a place where more than just parents and girlfriends can settle in and enjoy a fun night at the ballpark.
The old park is home to the Swepsonville Sweepers, a collection of local recent high school graduates and small college players looking for more experience and exposure. Members of the Olde North State League, an all-wooden bat league featuring college players from all over the East Coast and beyond, the Sweepers have put together a solid 2020 season, aided by numerous Eastern Alamance High graduates. It’s only six bucks to get in, and the competition is solid.
A total of four former Eagles - Matt Stanley, Will Austin, Trevor Moore, and John Hudson - have all made appearances at various points this spring for the Sweepers. Stanley is a rising sophomore at North Carolina Central University in Durham, while Moore, Austin, and Hudson are all about to enter their respective freshman seasons of college baseball - Moore at Roanoke College in Virginia, and Hudson and Austin at Fayetteville Technical Community College in Cumberland County.
With the Burlington Royals’ season cancelled - and their long-term future in jeopardy - the Sweepers have suddenly become the only game in town. And they’ve been playing games worth watching.
Although the Sweepers got off to a slow start this summer, dropping four of their first five games in late June, Swepsonville went on to win four of five games, including a 12-3 rout of the Triad Tribe, and back-to-back one-run wins over the Mocksville Muscadines. Through 22 games, the Sweepers held strong at 11-11.
Moore and Stanley played key roles in the blowout win over the Triad Tribe on June 29, with Moore scoring two runs and drawing a pair of walks, and Stanley adding three strikeouts with two runs allowed in 1.2 innings of work on the mound. Moore also came through with two hits, a run, and a walk in Swepsonville’s 4-3 triumph over Mocksville July 1, while Stanley added a strikout in two-thirds an inning. Moore added three hits in a four game stretch between July 9 and July 12, including an RBI double.
Starting with a win July 7 over the Carolina Coyotes the Sweepers got hot, winning five straight home games.
Swepsonville picked up back-to-back 16-6 and 5-1 victories over the Triad Tribe July 8 and 9, leading up to a 12-1 blowout of the Bull City Crash on July 10. The Sweepers next split a doubleheader July 12 with the Deep River Muddogs, earning a 1-0 victory in eight innings in the opener, but then having their winning streak snapped with a 15-5 setback in the nightcap.
Former EAHS standouts Austin and Moore came up huge in Swepsonville’s 5-1 triumph over the Triad Tribe at home on July 9. While Austin picked up the victory on the mound - going seven innings, allowing just three hits and one earned run with 11 strikeouts and a walk - Moore ripped an opposite-field RBI double to give his former Eagles teammate some run support.
For his pitching efforts against the Tribe, Austin was named the Olde North State League’s Pitcher of the Week. Austin also contributed a hit and a run in Swepsonville’s 10-0 wipeout of the Carolina Coyotes on July 7, and was hitting over .360 for the Sweepers as the season wound into its final week.
Hudson had a big night for the Sweepers on July 8, as he picked up two RBIs and scored a run in Swepsonville’s 16-6 victory over Triad. Hudson added a hit and a run in a 7-4 loss to Mocksville July 2, and picked up two more RBIs on a hit July 15, though the Sweepers suffered a 6-5 setback to the Carolina Coyotes.
Although Stanley struggled in his first two outings with the Sweepers, giving up a combined five earned runs in two of his first three appearances of the summer, he’s been coming on strong as the summer has worn on. Over a stretch of 3 and two-thirds innings between July 1 and July 12, Stanley allowed just one hit.
For a collection of players in Austin, Moore, and Hudson, who saw their high school senior seasons washed out by the COVID-19 pandemic, and another in Stanley who saw his first collegiate season go away abruptly, the Olde North State League has been a wonderful thing. Not only has it gotten them all a chance to get back on the field this summer, but it’s provided them an additional opportunity to play the game they love in front of hometown spectators.
The spectators have been respectful this summer at Swepsonville Ballpark, following proper social distancing guidelines, and avoiding the huge numbers of spectators that have gotten other local venues into issues with state and local authorities. While mostly parents, friends, and acquaintances of the players themselves, there have been some die-hard baseball fans in attendance, desperate to see some kind of baseball this summer. Any baseball at all.
Fortunately for those baseball-starved fans, neither the Olde North State League nor the Swepsonville Sweepers have disappointed.