Owls recieve NCAA tournament baseball berth
KEENE, N.H. 5/14/12 - Sunday turned out to be a bad-news, good-news day for the Keene State College baseball team. After getting eliminated from the Little East tournament earlier in the day, the Owl received word that night that they had earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Division III tournament.
"It's tough when you leave it to a committee, but I felt we deserved to be in and thankfully they did too," said Howe.
Keene State (31-13) will be the fourth seed in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament that begins Wednesday in Mansfield, Conn. The Owls first-round opponent will be fifth seed and Commonwealth Conference champ Western New England College (33-11). The Owls first-round game is scheduled for 10 a.m. Earlier in the season, KSC lost to the Golden Bears (14-1) back on April 11 in Springfield, Mass.
Other first-round games in the regional include top seed Wheaton College (34-8) facing eighth seed Bridgewater State (30-13), second seed St. Joseph's (Me.) (35-5) going up against seventh seed Bowdoin (25-18) and third seed Trinity (Conn.) College (32-9) taking on sixth seed and LEC tournament winner Southern Maine (27-17).
Howe feels the region is stacked. "The winner that comes out of this tournament and goes to the World Series will definitely deserve it," said Howe. "It's a very strong field and we're glad to be a part of it."
"Wheaton is the team to beat as the number one seed, but I don't think there's and easy team or an easy game to be had and that's what you get in tournament baseball," said Howe. "You hope you get hot at the end of the year and you can go deep in the tournament."
Keene State has played four teams in the field, posting a combined 1-6 record. In addition to their loss against Western New England, the Owls also fell to St. Joseph's College (8-2). KSC dropped all three of its games to Southern Maine. They were swept in a doubleheader 9-6 and 6-3 at Owls Athletic Complex and 2-1 at the LEC tournament. Keene State split their two games against Wheaton, losing in Florida 3-2 and beating the Lyons 7-6 in a late season game.
The Owls have an opportunity to avenge their earlier loss to WNEU. "Now we have an opportunity to play them again and we'll see what happens," said Howe. "Last year we beat them three times and they ended up going to the World Series. You never know what can happen."
Keene State will be making its fourth trip to the NCAA tournament in the last six seasons. The Owls also made tournament appearances in 2007, 2008, and 2010. A good portion of the team played in the 2010 NCAA tournament when the Owls were sent to the New York region. "It shouldn't be a big shock for most of the guys, said Howe. "We're also playing at Eastern Conn on a field that we're familiar with, so that should help us."
The NCAA Division III baseball championship tournament has 56 teams playing in eight regionals around the country. Winners of the eight regional tournaments will qualify for the double-elimination championship at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis., May 25-29.