FLORENCE, S.C. – Lex Tuten picked up where he left off from a strong season at North Greenville. Jake Swartz has been making the most of his playing time after a redshirt freshman season at Duke.
The two Florence County natives’ circumstances might be different, but they have been vital parts of the Florence RedWolves’ offense through three games.
Swartz, through the three games he played in the outfield, is hitting .333 with two RBI and two stolen bases. Tuten, through his two games (catcher and designated hitter), has three hits, including a double and two RBI and a batting average of .375.
“Lex is just a baseball rat,” RedWolves coach Ryan Vruggink said. “He loves to be out there and is a gamer of a person. He’s the guy you have to root for when you see him, because he shows up with a good attitude every day. And Jake is really talented. He has a lot of ability. He’s going to get to play this game for a long time.”
Tuten’s college season with North Greenville ended in the NCAA Division II Super Regional on May 25. While with the Crusaders this past season, Tuten started 35 of their 40 games and batted .295 with nine doubles, two home runs and 18 RBI. Then, Tuten joined the RedWolves on Tuesday.
“I got a lot of at-bats in college, and I think that really prepared me for what I’m seeing here with the RedWolves,” said Tuten, who played high school ball at Johnsonville.
After Swartz joined the RedWolves, he was just ready to be in a game situation after an injury last fall resulted in his redshirt.
“This is an important summer to get my reps in and stuff like that,” said Swartz, who played high school ball at West Florence and Trinity-Byrnes. “I made sure when I had time while redshirting that I was working hard to come down here and play like I’m used to. I’m an aggressive player, don’t take any crap. I just go out there and play hard.”
Vruggink likes that in Swartz.
“I think he’s really gifted for how young he is,” Vruggink said. “He’s got an advanced approach. He knows what he can handle and what he’s good at and what sides of the field to go to. And that’s advanced. Some guys don’t know that. Some guys who are talented, they just go out there and try to bang it around. He’s not like that. He’s got an approach, and he knows what he wants to try and do.”
Swartz said one key to his early success is taking things in stride.
“Coming down here, I’m not going to put any pressure on myself," Swartz said. "It’s just a game. Coming down here, pretty much, I just put it all in God’s hands. I trust my support system, I trust coming down here. I have a lot more to life than baseball, so never going to let this game control me. But I can control how hard I play, the effort I bring and the attitude I bring to the table. So those are the things helping me do my best.”
Vruggink meanwhile, thinks Tuten gives the RedWolves versatility.
“One, he’s a switch hitter, which is awesome,” Vruggink said of Tuten, who can also play in the outfield. “He has an advanced approach, as well. "He’s coming off a good year at North Greenville, and he’s going to ride it out this summer.”
Even after a successful season at North Greenville (a second consecutive conference championship), Tuten pushes toward getting even better.
“A couple of things I’m working on now are elevating the ball and hitting baseballs into the gap as well as two-strike approaches at the plate,” Tuten said.
What means the most to Tuten and Swartz so far, however, is they’re getting to improve as players while enjoying the comforts of home.
“It’s nice,” Swartz said. “It’s really nice. I have a great support system. I’ve got friends and family here. I’ve got church and faith chapel here. It’s great just being able to have the elements of home while a lot of these guys are away from home and trying to get adjusted. It’s just being here and knowing I have all these things available to me.”
And for them to have early success at home makes it even better.
“It’s pretty cool for me and Jake to come back after our college seasons and come back home and just play in front of the hometown crowd,” Tuten said. “We’ve enjoyed it.”