The Keene State College baseball team is proving that home field advantage is really working in its favor.
The Owls have racked up eight wins and only one loss at home this season, compared to a 9-4 record on the road.
When the Owls go on the road, they don’t have the comforts of their home field.
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There are long bus rides, a different pregame routine, and the lack of support from fans when they are playing at other schools.
Senior outfielder Erik Bergstrom said, “Sometimes you go to away games and you’ll have guys that will get heckled. Young guys who start to feel a little pressure start to feel uncomfortable.”
Bergstom added that because they have such a young team that having the younger players feel comfortable is very important.
The KSC baseball team has 17 underclassmen on its full roster.
It’s hard for a younger player to get comfortable in a college game, but playing at home definitely improves their comfort level.
Another major disadvantage of playing road games is having to leave players behind. Athletes have to miss class frequently during the season for away games and when they can’t, they must stay behind and miss the game.
KSC head baseball coach Ken Howe said that he doesn’t like leaving players behind because like any coach, he likes having his full team from which to pick.
But Howe also said he knows that academics come first.
In the most recent loss to Plymouth State University, a Little East Conference game, the team had to leave eight players behind due to academics.
While playing games on the road may be uncomfortable for some, the team as a whole is taking advantage of their increased comfort level at home.
One of the main factors in the team’s success is the familiarity of the home field.
“For the field, it’s what you play on every day so you’re used to that as opposed to going to a field where you may have never played before. You’re not quite sure how the ball reacts off the dirt or off the grass,” junior third baseman Greg Bates said.
Being a senior who played on his home field all four years, Erik Bergstrom knows the field extremely well.
“I feel comfortable hitting with the backdrop. And with fielding, I know how to play in the outfield with the way the sun sets. And towards the end of games it gets tougher but I just know the territory pretty well,” Bergstrom said.
“We’ve traditionally done very well at home over the years. Our grounds crew does a great job on the field. We know how it plays so that’s always good,” Coach Howe said.
Howe added that he thinks that it helps his team out a lot when they can get out of class and head right over to the field to start getting ready for the game.
When the team members are playing away, they are sitting on the bus for at least an hour then they have very little time to warm up on an unfamiliar field. And that’s a huge disadvantage.
Another advantage of playing at home for the team is their increased fan base. Howe said fan support has always been great for the team. The fans motivate the players to come out with a win.
Sophomore shortstop Nick Vita said, “No one really likes losing at their own place so we all get hyped up for the home games more. And the fans help out with that a lot too.”
Bates agreed with his teammate, “At home it’s nice to have people backing you up and giving you that extra boost of confidence,” he said.
With an impressive 25-9 record overall, the team hopes to clinch the Little East Conference so they can play at home in the tournament.
KSC currently sits in first place atop the Little East standings.
Rhode Island College is the closest behind the Owls with a record of 20-11.
“That’s everybody’s goal. You can ask all the coaches in the LEC and they will tell you the same thing at the beginning of the year. They say they want to make it to the tournament and I’d love to be the host because you get to stay at home,” Coach Howe said.
But for now, Howe and the KSC baseball team will continue to take the season one day at a time.
Jenn Zinka can be contacted at