It’s that time of the year again. The Keene State baseball team is back from Florida looking to continue their fresh start to the 2017 season.
Last year, the Owls finished the season with a 17-21 record. According to junior Noah Rizio, “This year feels different.” When asked what separates the team this year from the team last year, Rizio said, “This year’s team is more positive; we have guys who just want to play baseball, win and have fun.”
Head Coach Ken Howe described this year’s experience in Florida as different from years past. Coach Howe said this year, the team was within “three floors of each other, thanks to excellent housing in Florida.” In years past, the team was dispersed by as many as six different housing units. Coach Howe stressed that being able to keep the team so close to one another provided a “better bonding experience for the team.”
Last season, during the Owls time in Florida, a 6-4 record was accomplished, but this season, the Owls left Florida with a 6-5 record. According to Coach Howe, “Losses were not from a lack of effort.”
Junior Kolby Reggione described the team as “a lot closer this year with the most team chemistry I have seen during my time in Keene. We were much more fired up for Florida this year than in years past. [We] lost some close ones, but that happens early in the season. We are still trying to find ourselves, but can already tell there is a lot of upside.”
Last season, there was only one loss within two runs, and this season, the Owls walked away with three close losses all within two runs. Coach Howe said, “We only had two bad games during our time in Florida this year, with the remaining nine games all being hard-fought, competitive battles.”
Reggione said, “We were in almost every game and had the potential to win them all.” This year’s team is still very young, consisting mostly of first-years and sophomores. According to Coach Howe “Last year’s f[irst years] learned the grind of the season from last year’s seniors.”
The Owls lost eight seniors from last season, including standout pitcher and current Baltimore Orioles minor league player Cody Dube, leaving big shoes to fill for the rest of the team.
Going into the season, the Owls are ranked last in the Little East Conference (LEC) rankings. Junior Abe Grainger said he views this ranking as an opportunity to “go out each game and prove people wrong.” When asked what feels different heading into Florida this year than in years past, Grainger said, “good team chemistry” could be the difference for the Owls. Grainger said, “This year’s team feels [like] more of a family than just a team. Everybody seems to get along with each other. We have more fun and do not have to worry about guys getting on us for staying loose and having fun.”
Grainger said he attributes a very good offensive lineup this season to “quiet confidence” in the team’s abilities to execute. In order to achieve the team goal of winning the same conference they are ranked last in, this quiet confidence could prove to play a major role.
Coach Howe mentioned the struggle of this year’s playing conditions. “This year was the first time during my time in Keene where all the snow fell during our team time in Florida.” With that being said, Coach Howe said, “When the ump[ire] says, ‘Play ball,’ we are ready to compete and get better every day.”
John Piatelli can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org