Keene State College had a solid spring trip down at the Russ Matt Central Florida Invitational by keeping an above five-hundred record into regional play this upcoming week at KSC.
The Owls started their spring trip schedule against Aurora University, a program nationally recognized by many as one of the best in all of Division III baseball.
While missing most of its big bats in the lineup, Keene dropped a pair of games against the Spartans at the Chain of Lakes Field Complex in Winter Haven, Fla.
Senior right-hander Jeff Pelkey started the first game for the Owls on the mound and took the loss by tossing four and two-thirds innings, allowing 11 hits and seven runs to come home.
A bright spot for Keene came in the third inning when the Owls knocked in five runs, all coming with two outs. Senior Peter Burgio ended the rally with a deep, two run home run into the left field palm trees.
Two key errors in the third and fifth innings by the Owls defense gave the Spartans momentum to take the first game of the double-header by a final score of 10-5.
In game two, the Owls defense couldn’t help preserve any runs by recording four errors in the contest.
Aurora gained its sixth win of the year by strong pitching performances and flawless defense and leaving 14 Owls runners left of base.
Capped by their strong third inning with their offense getting five runs, Aurora took the early season sweep of the Owls by taking game two, 9-3.
Following Aurora, Keene had all regional opponents to face for the remainder of its trip.
The Owls had two stellar pitching performances when they had to square off with Husson University in their second double-header in a matter of days.
Lefty, Eric Perrault gave the Owls six and one-third innings of hitless baseball in game number one.
Game two starter, Tim Thiesing threw a career high 13 strikeouts in six innings of work as the Owls swept the Eagles of Husson, 10-2 and 4-2 at Pat Thomas Stadium in Leesburg, Fla.
The Owls welcomed back senior outfielders Erik Bergstrom and Kyle Morrill to their hitting lineup, as they both scored a combined six runs, three hits, and three runs batted in during the first game of the double-header alone.
Keene has had a lot of offensive production coming with two outs.
Owls Head Coach Ken Howe said, “That’s something that we work on a lot at practice.” In game one against Husson, the Owls had nine of their 10 RBI’s coming with two outs.
Following an off-day on Sunday, March 11, the Owls had a full slate of games consisting of six games in the next six days.
With the Owls currently holding a two-and-two record on the trip going into the full week, Keene States offense continued to stay hot.
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They started off the week by defeating Daniel Webster, a local New Hampshire college, cruising over the regional opponent 12-3.
Junior John Coughlin got the start for the Owls and ended up picking up the win after going five innings, allowing only one run and four hits with two strikeouts.
Sophomore second-baseman Nick Vita had a four-for-four day at the plate and was extremely pleased with Coughlin’s performance on the mound, along with Howe.
“This is a good step in the right direction,” Howe said about Coughlin who is coming back from a shoulder injury.
Senior first-baseman Larry Longo, also chipped in to help the Owls offense by smacking his first home run of the season to deep left-center field.
The following day, Keene had an easy time with Becker College as the Owls pounced on the Hawks, winning 17-7 in eight innings.
Sophomore left-hander Daniel Osorio threw four and two-thirds in his first collegiate start.
“I thought Osorio came out and gave us what we needed,” Howe said. The Owls jumped up to an early 10-run lead with some big production from freshman shortstop Tanner Chase who had four RBIs in the victory.
The Owls toughest test of the season came during the middle of their six game stretch in Florida.
Keene State had the pleasure of taking on the number 17 team in all of Division III baseball against Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
In one of best match-ups of quality college baseball thus far this season, the Owls dropped a tough one to the Lions by a final of 3-2.
Keene had a near flawless game fielding the ball against a very talented Wheaton team.
The Owls had one error in the ball game and jumped to an early one run lead in the first.
Wheaton responded with a solo home run in the second inning by third-baseman Dan Haugh off of the Owls starting pitcher Jeff Pelkey.
Shortly after with two outs, the Lions had a chance to pounce on the Owls by having runners on second and third but Keene freshman left-fielder Ian Seawards made a spectacular diving catch to keep Keene in the ball game by recording the third out and saving Pelkey.
Unfortunately, the Wheaton College Lions forced the runs in the later innings to defeat the Owls.
However, Keene defeated Endicott College the next day at Lake Myrtle Field Complex to help bounce back from a tough loss.
The last two games for Keene State were split with and even one win and one loss record as they lost to a very talented St. Joseph’s College of Maine team 8-2 and came from behind to beat Roger Williams in their final contest on Saturday 6-1.
The Owls had six wins to four losses on their Florida spring trip and have a current 8-5 record.
With a spark of freshmen bats and senior leadership in the field and on the mound, Keene looks to continue a good start to the season against Springfield College on Wednesday, March 21 at the Owl Athletic Complex.
Brian Schnee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org