|College:||University of New Hampshire|
You might think that wholesale changes in the Keene State College softball roster might throw a curve ball into the teams' chances of competing in the highly-competitive Little East Conference, let alone earn a second straight trip back to the NCAA tournament.
If you subscribe to that theory, then you don't know Coach Charlie Beach and his Keene State Owl softball team. Despite losing two-thirds of his roster to graduation, including five All-LEC players from last year's 28-12-1 squad that reached the finals of the NCAA regionals in Amherst, Mass., Keene State's sage softball coach has different plans. "We went through a transition four years ago and four year before that and we did just fine, "said Beach, who is set to start his 28th season with the Owls.
Beach, who directed the Owls to three consecutive ECAC New England titles before last year’s NCAA Tournament break through campaign, will be experiencing a little déjà vu this spring.
In 2009, Beach incorporated 10 new players, including nine freshmen, into the program, directed a young Owl team to a 30-14 (10-4 LEC) record. Improving as the season went on KSC not only advanced to the final-round of the LEC tournament, but completed its season by capturing the ECAC Division III New England Championship.
Ranked among the top Division III coaches in victories (646-388-9, .624 pct.), Beach is looking forward to developing his young team into a LEC and NCAA contender.
Winning is nothing new for the long-time Keene State coach. Beach has led the Owls to 11 Division III post-season appearances, capturing four LEC titles (1999, 2000, 2003, and 2005) and earning six NCAA berths (1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2012). His teams also won ECAC New England titles 2009-11.
A new season has brought new challenges for Coach Beach, who was along with his wife and assistant coach Deb Beach were recipients of the the Walter A. Smith Coaches Awards from the Union Leader this spring. Fortunately, he never met a challenge he didn't like. The Rochester, N.H., native took over the KSC softball program in 1986 and, starting almost from scratch, made the Owls contenders in the competitive New England Collegiate Conference and a legitimate regional power. The Owls have had 18 seasons with more than 20 wins in the last 22 years, reaching the 30-win milestone in 1999, 2005, and 2009. They captured ECAC championships in 1990 and 1993, and they won their first NECC championship and made their first NCAA regional tournament appearance in 1994.
Since guiding Keene State through the transition into Division III and the Little East Conference in 1998, Beach has kept the Owls on the rise. After leading KSC to a pair of ECAC tournament berths, Beach directed the team to back-to-back LEC titles and NCAA berths in 1999 and 2000 that included a 33-win season in 2000. The Owls made a return trip to the NCAAs in 2003, when they captured the championship as a fifth seed, and again in 2005, when they posted a program-record 34 victories and advanced to the finals of the New England region. In 2007, KSC went 28-9 and earned an at-large berth to the national tournament.
Beach has produced 45 All-LEC players, including current assistant Meghan McLoughlin, two-time Pitcher of the Year ('04 and '05), and Jenna Patnode, the 2009 Player of the Year and recipient of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) 2009 Golden Shoe Award for leading Division III in stolen bases.
He credits the many fine Owls who have played on his team for his coaching achievements at Keene State. Beach became just the 17th coach in Division III to reach the 600 win mark. "It's a great accomplishment," said Beach. "I know a lot of coaches haven't done this so I feel privileged to join the crowd that have."
A member of the Keene State physical education faculty, Beach served as the head coach of the KSC ski program, leading the men's and women's teams to NCAA Eastern Division II titles in 1982 and 1984, respectively. He led the Keene city summer softball league team to the Women's Major Modified championship in 1989 and led his "Beach Bunch" to the national tournament in 1996. He is a former physical conditioning consultant for the Chicago White Sox and has coached a variety of sports, including football, baseball, and track and field. Beach, a former standout track and football athlete at Spaulding High School, was inducted into the Rochester (N.H.) Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1967 and earned a Ph.D. in physical education from Michigan State University in 1978.
Working alongside husband Charlie on the Owls' bench, KSC grad Deb Beach begins her 27th season as an assistant coach with the Owl softball program. She handles many aspects of the program, including recruiting and game-day responsibilities. Deb has also joined Charlie in coordinating many of the successful summer teams and camps he has run over the years in the Keene area.
Originally from Swanzey, N.H., Deb has been the head softball and field hockey coach at Lebanon High School for the last 23 years. She stepped down as Lebanon High softball coach in 2007, after leading the Raiders to the State Class I softball title in 1995 and the finals in 1996.
Beach is a member of the Monadnock Regional High School Hall of Fame and along with her husband Charlie Beach was the recipient of the the Walter A. Smith Coaches Award from the Union Leader this spring.
One of the Owls' all-time top pitchers, Meghan McLoughlin, returns for her seventh season as an assistant coach with the Keene State softball team.
The ace of the Owls pitching staff in her final three seasons (2003-05), McLoughlin, who was inducted into the KSC Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012, was a two-time LEC Pitcher of the Year (2004, 2005), leading KSC to two LEC titles, including 2005, when she was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after throwing three complete game shutouts, recording 28 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched.
McLoughlin, who earned her degree in elementary/special education in 2006 and is currently working on her master's degree at KSC, completed her Owl career by posting a 15-4 mark with a school-record 0.21 ERA her senior season. The Brattleboro, Vt., native also holds the KSC career ERA mark (0.39) and is third all-time in wins (39) and strikeouts (422).