Last year, Janine Swift was the newbie.
This year, it’s her team.
Swift is a junior third baseman on the Archbishop Ryan High School softball team. Last year was her first year playing for the Ragdolls because her freshman campaign consisted of a pair of practices before it was shut down due to the pandemic.
Last year, she earned a starting spot in a very veteran lineup that included seven senior starters at every position other than pitcher and third base.
Because of that, Swift had plenty of time to watch and learn while helping the Ragdolls run all the way to the Catholic League championship.
“I walked in knowing that they had a reputable program, so I had to work hard and in my freshman year, I didn’t really get a chance to prove myself, so I wasn’t sure what would happen last year,” Swift said. “Then last year, I just followed along. We had nine great seniors, they would pick four as captains, but they were all good leaders. We had Dana Bell, she was the MVP and she was such a good leader. We all looked to her, but there were a lot of great leaders.”
This year, the Ragdolls are talented, but far from experienced. There are only two seniors on the team and two juniors, so the bulk of the lineup and team consists of underclassmen. Very few players have any varsity experience.
That’s where Swift comes in.
After getting her feet wet last year during the team’s run to the Catholic League championship, Swift learned what it takes to be a contributing member of a great softball team in the always-tough Catholic League. Now, just as the seniors did for her last year, she’s passing that on to her younger teammates.
It’s going very well for the young team that sits atop the Catholic League standings.
Ryan is 5-0 and seeking yet another Catholic League crown. Swift is red hot after starting the season with a tough game.
“Honestly, the first game we had against Lansdale Catholic, I didn’t hit the ball one time, it was bothering me, so I just showed up the next day, straight faced and got the work in that I needed. The focus was there and it fell into place. I feel good, I’m really excited for big games.
“We are very young, everyone fills in, but it’s an adjustment. They’re following along, they are picking up, they’re listening to us. We’re leading them and they’re leaning on us. We are all trying to get to where we need to be. They’re falling in really, really well.”
The talent is there, but the one thing the Ragdolls needed to work on was chemistry because there were so many new faces on the varsity squad. But despite all the new faces, it didn’t take long to become a cohesive unit. That’s been one of the main reasons the Ragdolls are enjoying success.
“We do a lot of things, things as small as our bus rides to games, talking together,” Swift said. “We just had a pasta party. And we hung out last weekend. Make sure to stay in touch, do as many things. We got the results. We are trying to mimic last year, when we had a great year, but everyone has to step up.
“We had the party at our house. Everyone brought something. We made the pasta. It was a lot of fun. You have to practice and work hard to be good, but you also have to make sure everyone is friends. That makes winning easier.”
Swift is a softball player first, but she also dabbles in other sports. She plays field hockey, and this year for the first time, she joined the bowling team so she could hang out with friends.
She’s also very involved in other activities. One has a really special meaning to her.
“In school, I’m in student council, I’m an ambassador, which is a group that is kind of the face of the school, and I’m the secretary of Athletes Helping Athletes. I’m hoping next year, I’ll be able to be the president.
“I lost my brother (Christopher) to Down syndrome right after he was born. He only lived one day. It was before I was born, but I have a tattoo with his footprints on my back. He was my brother Jon’s twin. My brother got the tattoo and I wanted to get it, too. I have two younger brothers and they’re probably going to get it, too.
“I think that’s why Athletes Helping Athletes is so important to me. Their prom is coming up, it’s a huge event. And the little things, hosting honorary captains, seeing the joy on their faces. It gives you a different meaning, seeing them happy makes you happy.”
Swift also stays busy away from Ryan.
When she’s not playing softball, taking part in activities or excelling in the classroom where she has a 5.0 grade point average, she’s working with her mom.
“We make sweatshirts,” Swift said. “They’re sold on Facebook, we make sweatshirts and sweatpants. A lot of the clothes we wear, they’re made. They have the schools on them, we do all schools. I made some towels for Judge. I work on everything. That’s my spare time when I don’t have softball.”
If things go right, mom will be shorthanded until mid-June.
“We would love to win the Catholic League championship and do well in states,” Swift said. “We still have to get better, but we’re doing pretty good.”