Keene State spring teams begin LEC schedules on Saturday
KEENE, N.H. 3/30/12 –The 2012 Keene State spring sports season might have begun several weeks ago, but an argument can be made that the Owls start their real season on Saturday when they play their first Little East Conference games of the year.
With at-large bids to the national tournaments becoming harder to come by, more emphasis is placed on conference games. “As far as I’m concerned, the conference games are more important because that’s the route to the NCAA tournament,” said longtime KSC softball coach Charlie Beach. “Any other route, based on your win-loss record and not winning the LEC’s is a crap shoot.”
Despite winning a combined 88 games the last three seasons, the most victories by the KSC softball program over a three-year period, the Owls have been shutout when it comes to earning a much-coveted NCAA tournament berth.
The Keene State softball team begins its journey through the LEC on Saturday at Rhode Island College. The Owls are off to a flying start. After dropping its first game of the season, KSC (9-1) has won nine straight, including an 18-0 and 8-0 doubleheader sweep over Fitchburg State on Thursday.
RIC, which won four consecutive LEC titles from 2006-09, brings a 7-4 record into the twinbill. The Anchorwomen dropped both ends of a doubleheader (3-2 and 3-1) at Worcester State on Thursday. Rain and snow showers are in the forecast for Providence and a decision on the status of the games will be made early Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, baseball and lacrosse balls will be flying around Owl Athletic Complex throughout Saturday.
The Keene State baseball team steps to the plate first with an unexpected home LEC doubleheader against Western Conn. The doubleheader, which begins at noon, was originally scheduled to be played in Danbury. The games were moved to Keene due to renovations on the Colonials’ infield. “I don’t mind being the visiting team on the scoreboard,” said KSC Coach Ken Howe.
It’s hard to find a more competitive Division III baseball conference than the LEC. Over the past five years (2007-11) four different teams have claimed the conference crown with Eastern Conn. (in 2007 and 2009) being the only team to repeat. “It’s not that you put more emphasis on the Little East games, but those are the ones that will get you the NCAAs,” said Howe.
The Owls (10-5) are coming off a 21-6 win over Babson College on Wednesday. The Colonials (7-9) won their first game since returning from Florida, defeating Westfield State 10-4 on Tuesday.
A young and improving Keene State women’s lacrosse team gets its first taste of LEC action when they host Southern Maine on Saturday (1 p.m.). The Owls (4-2) are coming off a 9-8 win against Franklin Piece on Thursday. “We basically had six games to get us ready for our LEC games,” said KSC Coach Katie Arsenault. “We’re a young team, so we needed all the help we could get as far as game experience is concern.”
Southern Maine (4-4) will be playing a far different KSC team than the one that captured the Little East championship last year. “It’s tough because the other teams look at us as the defending champs, but most of our current players had little to do with that title,” said Arsenault. “We have our work cut out for us, but their ready for the challenge.”
The Keene State men’s lacrosse team will wrap up the day with a 3:30 game against Southern Maine (3-2). The Owls (2-4) hope that their strong non-conference schedule has them ready for their more meaningful conference games. “We could win all of those out-of-conference games and lose in the tournament and our season is over,” said KSC Coach Mark Theriault. “The biggest thing for us is the conference.”
It’s a point he doesn’t have to make to his players. “They know what the conference means. The prize at the end of the season goes through the conference - especially where we are right now record wise,” said Theriault. “If we don’t run our conference we’re not going to the NCAA tournament.”