Lancaster Barnstormers base runner dives back into first to avoid being picked off. Photo courtesy of Tim Scott/Flickr

Justin Staggers

Sports Editor

After the first half of the 2023 season, the Lancaster Barnstormers found themselves with a 25-38 record, on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. Just a little over a year removed from winning the league title, fans of the team had high expectations for the Barnstormers, or the “Silos” as they’re affectionately called. 

The Atlantic League (ALPB) differs from other professional baseball leagues in that they compete in two halves. This is mainly because at the end of the first half, MLB organizations will scoop up the best players from the Atlantic League for their big league roster. The format of the Atlantic League allows time for teams to rebuild their roster in the event of players being called up to the MLB.

One of the more unique features of this format is the playoff seeding. After the first half of the season concludes, the top team from each conference is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. The remaining teams have their records reset and have the chance to compete for the remaining playoff spots. Essentially, teams who underperform in the first half of the season still have a chance due to the playoff formatting. 

The defending champions made a series of moves at the break, signing notable players to boost their roster and give them a chance in the second half.

One of those signings happened to be Matt Swarmer, who was signed by the Barnstormers on Aug. 10 of this year after being released by the Gwinnett Stripers, a Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. A native of Mifflin County and Kutztown graduate, Swarmer returns back to Pennsylvania for the next step in his professional career.

Swarmer was the starter for Friday night’s matchup against the Staten Island FerryHawks, a game the Barnstormers would have to win to clinch a postseason appearance. 

On the fringe were teams such as the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and rival York Revolution. With a win against the FerryHawks, the Revolution and Blue Crabs would be eliminated from the playoff contention. 

The game started off with quick runs from the Barnstormers in their half of the second inning. With two outs, Chad Sedio and Jack Conley got into scoring position and rounded home after a clutch single from Trace Leohr to give the Barnstormers an early 2-0 lead. Swarmer then gave up a run in the top of the third on a double from Jack Elliot to cut the Barnstormers lead in half. From there, the Barnstormers never looked back, scoring four runs in the fourth inning as a result of two costly FerryHawk errors. 

Jack Elliot and Angel Agular would homer in the sixth to bring the FerryHawks within three, but the strength of the Barnstormers’ pitching kept them at bay for the remainder of the game. Swarmer would finish the game with 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 11 total strikeouts, and one playoff-clinching performance for the Lancaster Barnstormers. This signing could not have come at a better time for the Silos, who were in desperate need of pitching after a disappointing first half. Having someone like Swarmer who can give the team a quality start is essential for their success in the 2023 playoffs and beyond. 

The Barnstormers will begin the playoffs with a series against the Long Island Ducks.