Standing six feet tall, Meghan McLoughlin was an imposing figure in the pitching circle for the Keene State softball team during her 2002-05 career. A ferocious competitor whose desire for perfection elicited performances unmatched by those who came before and after her, McLoughlin joins an elite circle as the fifth Owl softball player to be inducted into the school’s hall of fame.
“There was something inside me that craved perfection,” said McLoughlin, who gave herself a verbal pep talk before every pitch. “I had to be solely focused on what I was trying to accomplish at that very moment.”
“Meghan strove for perfection in herself,” agreed KSC Coach Charlie Beach. “During my coaching career, she’s the only pitcher that let me relax, because I was confident that she wasn’t going to let the other team score a run.”
McLoughlin, who tossed the first-ever perfect game by a KSC pitcher against Eastern Conn. as a junior, led Division III with a miniscule 0.21 ERA as a senior and finished her career with an impressive 0.39 mark. Using a rise ball and a deceptive change-up, she completed her career with a 39-14-5 record and 422 strikeouts, fanning a school-record 15 in a win over Norwich in her final season.
McLoughlin wasn’t as always so confident on the mound. She recalls a time pitching for her Brattleboro Union High School team when she became overcome with the situation and was reduced to tears. “My coach came out, pointed her finger at me, and said, ‘If you can’t get yourself together, I’ll find someone else who can.’” It was a turning point. McLoughlin attended several camps and clinics, including one at Spaulding Gym, where she caught the eye of Beach.
With a couple of pitchers ahead of her, McLoughlin had to wait her turn before becoming a full-time member of the Owls’ rotation as a sophomore. Refining her delivery and adding a pitch to her repertoire, McLoughlin pitched the Owls to the LEC championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament, where she notched a complete game win over top-seed Tufts. Although the Owls came up short in their bid to return to the tournament the following season, McLoughlin won numerous honors, including All-Region and All-New England accolades and the first of her two LEC pitcher of the year awards.
McLoughlin saved her best for last, pitching Keene State to another LEC crown and NCAA berth as a senior. She was dominant in the LEC tournament. In 21 innings of work, she tossed three complete game shutouts, striking out eight and giving up three hits in the Owls 2-0 championship victory over Eastern Conn. She was named the tournament's most outstanding player. “I didn’t feel any pressure, because as a team we were all on top of our game,” said McLoughlin. “I felt we were focused on the same goal.”
For an encore, McLoughlin won two games in the NCAA tournament, including a one-hitter in a 4-0 shutout win against Endicott, leading the Owls into the finals of the New England regional tournament. Her performance earned her multiple honors once again, including her second LEC pitcher of the year award.
McLoughlin, who earned her degree in elementary special education in 2005 and was named KSC’s female athlete of the year in 2006, is set to begin her seventh season as a member of the Owls softball coaching staff this spring. “I’ve been a part of KSC softball for 10 years as a player and a coach and I have had great experiences and friendships with Charlie and Deb (Beach),” she said. “Some of my closest friends and favorite memories come from the program. l feel very fortunate and lucky the way things turned out.”