The Keene State College Men’s Baseball team wrapped up their annual spring trip from the Sunshine State this past weekend as they participated in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational. The Owls entered the 11 game schedule with just a 1-3 record.
KSC kicked off the week at Pat Thomas Stadium in Leesburg, Fla., with a doubleheader versus WPI, a regional opponent for the Owls. It certainly was difficult for KSC to get things going offensively even though they out-hit the Engineers in game number one. Keene dropped the first game by a final of 3-1 but came back to win the night cap, 6-5.
The following afternoon, Keene went to Lake Myrtle Park in Auburndale, Fla. to battle with the birds as KSC welcomed a double-header with the Hawks of Roger Williams University. The Owl’s hitting woes continued as Keene only registered two hits in the first game and lost 4-0. However, in the second game, Keene finally provided a little bit of offense behind freshman starting pitcher Eddie Dionne. Keene had a slim 5-4 lead entering the bottom of the sixth when sophomore Ian Seawards belted a three-run homerun into the night over the left field fence. The Owls improved to a 3-5 record following their game number two win over the Hawks.
For the remainder of the break, the Owls had only one scheduled game per day in Florida’s citrus belt, they continued the schedule playing The College of New Jersey at the Chain of Lakes Field Complex in Winter Haven, Fla. It was scoreless through the first four innings but the Owls tacked on a run in the fifth, four in sixth and two more in the eighth inning to cruise to a victorious final of 7-0. Keene had 13 hits in the game with three of them coming from Junior Nick Vita.
Owls’ senior first-baseman Greg Bates went 2-4 with a run batted in and scored three times in the game. Senior right-hander Chris Crutcher threw a gem on the mound for the Owls by going eight strong innings, scattering five hits with five strikeouts.
The following day, Keene had a non-regional game against FDU-Florham at the Chain of Lakes complex. This game went back and forth as the Owls just couldn’t catch a break when they needed it the most. Keene had a 6-2 lead but allowed FDU to climb back with a five-run sixth inning and eventually tie the game at eight heading into the ninth inning. In the top half, the Owls had two runners in scoring position but couldn’t push the leading run across home plate. In the bottom of the ninth, FDU had runners on first and second with two outs. Chaos struck for the Owls as a fly ball was hit to left center field and resulted in a collision between the outfielders and the winning run came home. It was Keene’s last time playing at Chain of Lakes as the home site for the RussMatt tournament has been moved starting next year.Following a mid-week rainout with national powerhouse and regional rival Wheaton College, the Owls had to face the number nine power in the country next. Saint Joseph’s College of Maine battled Keene and easily got the better of the Owls by a final of 13-6. The Owls had an early lead until the St. Joes exploded with seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and the lead built from then on. Once again, Nick Vita provided most of the Owls power at the plate by going 3-4 with three runs and an RBI. With the win, St. Joe’s remained undefeated on their young season.
With KSC dropping two straight games, the Owls had a full day of doubleheader action coming up late in the week at South Florida Community College in Avon Park, Fla.. First, the Owls faced the Bowdoin College Polar Bears on a day where chilly and windy conditions certainly resembled KSC’s opponents’ name. Bowdoin, who had been undefeated entering the game, tacked on three runs in the top of the third to take the lead.
For Keene, the Owls scattered runs in the fourth, seventh and eighth innings to have the game tied after nine innings. Keene was threatening in the bottom of the eleventh when Ian Seawards hit a hard groundball to the left side of the infield scoring Nick Vita for the win in heroic fashion.
In game number two, the Owls took on Husson University, a team that the Owls haven’t had struggles with in years past. However, Husson had a 4-0 lead after three innings and KSC couldn’t grab situational hits when they needed them.
The Owls grounded into three double-plays and left seven runners on base in the game. With only one game left on the trip, Keene was hoping to get back on the winning groove. On the final day of the trip, Keene returned back to Leesburg, Fla. to face Suffolk University. In a game that lasted over four hours long, the Owls dropped a marathon game 15-12. A bright spot for the Owls came when senior Greg Bates delivered a three-run home run to left center field which gave the Owls a spark.
However, the five KSC pitchers couldn’t hold it all together in this one by allowing eight walks and hitting two batters and giving up 15 hits.
KSC returns from their spring trip with a 5-9 record. It has been a tough start of the season for the Owls who graduated ten seniors from last season. Keene has an everyday starting lineup that features a majority of first and second year players. The Owls next face Daniel Webster at Owl Stadium on March 24, at 1 p.m.
Brian Schnee can be contacted at