The uniforms are in, the batting cages are live and the 6 a.m. practices are underway. Baseball season is approaching. Keene State College’s Head Coach Ken Howe and his roster are looking to make a rally for the Little East Conference (LEC) playoffs after a disappointing season last year.
“We haven’t had good years the last two years and we’re not used to that as a baseball program,” Howe said.
In 2015, the Owls finished with a 10-24 record, where the team batting average was .255 and the earned run average (ERA) hovered high at 5.99.
Senior pitcher Cody Dube said the disappointing season was in large-part due to a lack of consistency between the batting order and the pitching staff, which was a consequence of a lack of confidence.
“We’d show up to games not knowing if we’d win or not,” said Dube.
With the first pitch approaching, the team has been practicing indoors, scooping ground balls, drilling and working on the fundamentals of the game, and having a bit of fun getting ready to start the new season.
“They’re chomping at the bit,” Howe said.
Now, the seven seniors who are entering their final year wearing an Owl uniform are going to be the ones setting the example for the rest of the players.
“It’s going to be a very upperclassmen led team,” Simpson said.
Howe touched on the reasons why the veterans will be the ones to lead.
“They’ve been through the ups and downs,” Howe said.
Seniors include both Dube and Simpson, Billy Hartman, who hit for a .304 average last season, Vinny Parilla, who knocked in 12 runs batted in (RBI), and Joe Libby, who led the team with a .368 average, along with others.
Libby said that this year will be different than the last few.
“Everyone is buying in now.” Libby said. “I think we’re going to be able to execute and make plays.”
That’s not to say that the seniors will be the only ones who will be stepping up for the team. Coach Howe noted younger players such as Abe Grainger, who notched 13 RBIs in 21 games, as well as rookie Max Struthers, who is slated to start at shortstop.
Other newcomers to the team include Connor Longley, who, according to Howe, has a chance to start at first base, along with transfer student and infielder Devin Springfield from Franklin Pierce in his first year of eligibility and junior outfielder Dan Quinn from Daniel-Webster.
The seniors said they believe that they have the pieces they need to make a run at the Little East Conference Championship.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t make it to LECs this year,” Libby said.
The Owls start their season on March 5, with their first of four games in New Jersey, followed by a trip to the Sunshine State for Spring Break, where they will play ten games before hosting their first home contest on March 24.
“It’s the best group of guys we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Dube said, “Time to turn it around.”
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