KEENE, N.H.--On National Star Wars Day, the Force was with the Keene State College baseball team, which qualified for the Little East Conference tournament for the first time since 2013 with a 4-1 win over Eastern Connecticut State University in the opening game of an LEC doubleheader at Owl Athletic Complex on Thursday. The Warriors took the second game, 12-6.
- Keene State: 14-21, 5-9 LEC
- Eastern Conn. State: 20-14, 7-7 LEC
"It's a relief - these guys really deserve it. A couple little things here and there and it's nice to get a second chance. Everyone's 0-0 and we're excited to get going." --Head Coach Ken Howe
How it Happened - Game One
Senior Michael Crimi tossed seven innings, striking out five and limiting the Warriors to four hits to improve to 6-3.
Keene State struck four three runs in the bottom of the first, as Zach Rollins reached on an error with one out and stole second. After Connor Longley walked, Christian Bourgea roped a single to center field to bring Rollins around, and John Tarascio ripped a double to deep left to bring in Longley and Bourgea.
Crimi worked out of three different bases loaded jams, including striking out Alexander White to end the threat in the second. The Warriors did get on the board in the top of the third when Pat Sirois scored on a wild pitch, but Crimi limited the damage by getting Christian Budzik to hit into a fielder's choice.
The Owls added another run in the bottom of the fourth on Tom Meucci's RBI single, and Crimi got out of trouble with the bases loaded again in the top of the fifth, getting Merlyn Herrera to line out to Mac Struthers at short, who was able to double off John Mesagno at second base.
Another defensive play ended an ECSU threat when Nate Rossi threw out Alex Zachary trying to steal second to end the sixth.
Andrew Houde came on in relief for the final two innings, getting White to hit into a 6-3 double-play to end the eighth inning, and setting the Warriors down in order to end the game. Houde picked up his first save of the seaosn.
ECSU starter Jordan Muchin (4-4) was the hard-luck loser, striking out 10 in six innings and allowing five hits.
How it Happened - Game Two
Keene State pulled within one after falling behind 6-5, but ceded six runs in the final two innings in a 12-6 loss.
Walsh picked up another RBI with a single to right in the bottom of the first, but the Warriors hit back with single runs in the third, fourth, and fifth to take a 3-1 lead.
The Warriors built the lead to 6-1 with a three run sixth inning, as Mesagno scored on a wild pitch, and Budzik drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to center. Jake Lefevre drove in another run with a double to left.
Tarascio homered with one out in the bottom of the sixth that made it a 6-2 game, and Rossi and Meucci chased ECSU starter John Parker with consecutive singles. Mac Struthers greeted reliever Nick Rascati with his first career homer to left that made it 6-5.
Walsh and Longley opened the seventh with consecutive walks, but Longley was caught out in a rundown trying to score on Tarascio's infield hit, and Springfield grounded out to first to end the inning.
The Warriors scored three times in each of the eighth and ninth innings to open up a 12-5 lead. Keene State pulled one back on Longley's fourth homer of the season to lead off the ninth, but the Owls could not get closer.
Tim Coppinger (0-5) started and went 5.1 innings, striking out three. Nate Pedersen, Jeff Lunn, and Alan Schiff all saw time out of the bullpen. Tarascio finished 4-for-5, while Struthers was 3-for-4 and scored twice. Rossi added a pair of hits.
Around the Horn
- Between the two games, seniors Crimi, Robbie Hamilton, Schiff, Rollins, Pedersen, Coppinger, and Lunn were honored for their contributions to the program.
- Crimi's sixth win matched the second highest single season total in school history, tying Jamie Morin (2008), Matt Lavatori (1999, 2000), Jeff Pelkey (2009, 2012), Tim Quagliaroli (2012), Buzzy Francis (2002), and Chris Crutcher (2012).
- The Owls are back in the LEC tournament for the first time 2013; Keene State is seeking its first tournament title since 2008.
- Keene State will be the No. 6 seed in the upcoming LEC tournament, and will play the hosts, No. 1 seed and No. 16 nationally University of Southern Maine on Wednesday, May 10 at 9:30 a.m.
- Eastern Connecticut State will be the No. 4 seed and will play No. 3 seed UMass Dartmouth at 3:30 p.m. on the same day.