|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.
|College:||Keene State College '99|
The last time Carrah Fisk Hennessey was on the softball field at Keene State College’s Owl Athletic Complex the Keene native and former Owl standout slugger and pitcher found herself in unfamiliar surroundings.
“I was in the opposing dugout coaching for New England College,” recalls Fisk Hennessey. “I’m excited about going to the right dugout. It’s going to feel like going home.”
Fisk Hennessey will be moving back to the home dugout this season, serving as an assistant coach with the Keene State softball team longtime Head Coach Charlie Beach announced on Tuesday. She takes over the position held by Meghan McLoughlin the past seven seasons. “When Meghan couldn’t return this year, Carrah was the first name that popped into my head,” said Beach, who will return to the KSC dugout for his 29th season this spring. Beach’s wife Deb will also be back for her 28th season as an assistant coach with the team.
Thrilled about rejoining the Owl program, Fisk Hennessey association with Beach goes back many years. A neighbor of Beach growing up in Keene, Fisk Hennessey played summer ASA softball and attended camps run by the KSC Coach before deciding to stay and play for the home town Owls.
A fundamentally sound softball player, Hennessey put up staggering power numbers that still stand today. A four-time All-Conference and three-time recipient of All-Region honors, Hennessey holds Keene State season home run (16,) and RBI (41) records. She is second in career home runs with 24 and fifth all-time in batting average (.374) and RBIs (103). “Carrah hit the ball so hard that the shortstop and third baseman would play back on the grass,” said Charlie Beach, about Fisk Hennessey, who also played goalie for the Owl soccer team and was inducted into the KSC Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. “She was also smart enough to bunt for a base hit.”
Fisk Hennessey was a member of the 1999 Owl team that at the time set a record for wins (33-10), captured the programs’ first Little East championship and advanced to the final round of the NCAA Northeast Regional tournament in Ithaca, N.Y. “It was absolutely amazing,” said Fisk Hennessy reflecting on her accomplishments and the team’s memorable 1999 season.
Graduating in 1999, Fisk Hennessy moved down the road to New England College in Henniker where she coached the Pilgrim softball and soccer teams and also served as the school’s assistant director of athletics. She was named the Commonwealth Coast Conference softball coach of the year in 2006.
Although Fisk Hennessey returned to the education field after leaving NEC, she never left the game. Over the years, she continued to assistant Beach with his summer camp and winter pitching clinic and also coached an ASA summer softball team.
“I’m confident this change will be seamless due to Carrah’s background and experience, said Beach. “We aren’t dealing with someone who has to learn our system and our philosophy.”
The return of Fisk Hennessey to the Owls will also add a little bit of spice to the Keene State-Plymouth State rivalry. Carrah’s husband Tim is a Plymouth State grad and a 2007 PSC Hall of Fame inductee for baseball.
Tim and Carrah, a kindergarten teacher at Mt. Caesar School in Swanzey, reside in Keene with their three boys: Carter (9), Christian (7) and Clayton (2). “The Keene State softball family just got larger,” said Beach.