Keene State Set For Little East Baseball Tournament
KEENE, N.H. 5/8/12 – "We're packing up and heading north," said Keene State baseball coach Ken Howe. The Owls are one of six teams that have qualified for the double-elimination Little East Conference baseball tournament that begins Wednesday at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. The Huskies earned the right to host the tournament after sweeping Eastern Conn. in a doubleheader last Saturday.
The second seed in the tournament, Keene State (29-11) will face fifth seed UMass-Boston (18-20-1) in its opening round game on Wednesday (12:30 p.m.). In other first-round games, top seed Southern Maine (23-16) goes up against sixth seed Plymouth State (17-20) and third seed and defending champ Rhode Island College (25-15) takes on fourth seed Eastern Conn. (28-11).
The winner of the four-day tournament will receive the LEC's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"I don't know it there's a clear-cut favorite," said KSC associate head coach Marty Testo. "I think the Little East is such a competitive league that you just hope to win early. You don't want to get bounced into that loser's bracket."
"We've seen everybody and everybody has seen us, so it all depends on which Keene State team shows up," said KSC Coach Ken Howe.
The top hitting team in the LEC with a .335 average, the Owls have an explosive line-up that includes the league's leading hitter senior Kyle Morrill (.457 BA) as well as senior Erik Bergstrom, the LEC's top RBI guy with 51, and junior Greg Bates, who has crossed the plate a league-best 60 times so far this season.
"We have the reputation of being boppers and hitting the ball around, but we have some senior pitchers that are very experienced and more than willing to step up and give us some big innings," said Morrill.
Testo agrees with Morrill. "We're not going to go out there and shut down teams, that's not really our game," said Testo. "We're going to pitch to contact and hopefully make plays and we're going to try to outscore the opponent. But there's no big secret about it (Tim) Thiesing and (Jeff) Pelkey have been there for us all year and they're going to get the ball."
Thiesing has a 4-0 record and a 3.80 ERA while Pelkey brings a 5-2 record and 4.42 ERA into the tournament. Junior Chris Crutcher 6-1, 5.62 ERA) has also had a fine season on the mound while junior Tim Quagliaroli (5-1, 3 saves, 3.66 ERA) has been one of the Owls' top relievers.
The highly-competitive Little East has had four different teams capture the conference crown the past four years. Keene State won its lone title in 2008.
"I'm pretty proud of our guys and I think we had a good season, but come Wednesday everybody is 0-0," said Testo. "We're going down there with one goal in mind – to win a LEC championship. I think it's anybody's ball game. It's a game of survival."