Big summer for former Panthers

Published 2:34 pm Sunday, July 9, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

As the LaGrange College Panthers battered the opposition on the way to a 40-6 record last season, Blane Swift and Blake Butcher both had monster senior seasons at the plate.

The two men helped lead the Panthers to a conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

Swift and Butcher have moved on and they’re both playing professional baseball, but the results at the plate have been the same.

The two former Panthers are both having big summers for the High Desert Yardbirds, who are a part of the California-based Pecos League.

On Thursday, Swift had a three-hit performance to raise his batting average to .400, and Butcher is also having a big season with a .348 average.

Swift and Butcher have

both played in 24 games for the Yardbirds, who are 25-18 despite Thursday’s 17-15 loss to the Bakersfield Train Robbers.

While Butcher had the day off, Swift was starting at second base, and he was 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored.

On Tuesday, Butcher and Swift were both in the lineup, and they each had a double in a 6-4 loss to the California City Whiptails.

Swift has 34 hits in 85 at-bats, and he has five doubles, two triples, 18 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

He has also walked six times and been hit by a pitch six times.

Butcher, a third baseman, has 31 hits in 89 at-bats, and he has five doubles and two triples with 11 RBIs, and he has scored 14 runs.

Like Swift, Butcher has found other ways to get on base with seven walks and he’s been hit by a pitch seven times.

Another former Panther, Jonathan Fleckenstein, is a relief pitcher for the Yardbirds, and he has appeared in six games and has thrown a total of 5 2/3 innings and has no record.

Swift, Butcher and Fleckenstein were all instrumental in helping the Panthers set a program record for wins in a season last spring.

Swift, who played in all but one game, hit .375 with five home runs and 31 RBIs.

Butcher, the USA South player of the year in 2016, hit .342 while leading the team with seven home runs and 50 RBIs.

Fleckenstein had an outstanding season as a relief pitcher.

Fleckenstein appeared in 24 games, and he was 6-1 with five saves and a 1.75 earned run average.