The spreading of coronavirus didn’t impact the Keene State College baseball and softball teams as both took the field over the weekend in Florida. However, those weekend games will be the last games played until at least April 6, after regular conference play was suspended until that date.
On Friday afternoon at Lake Myrtle Sports Complex Field No. 4 in Auburndale, Fla., the Owls baseball team got a strong relief effort from Tyler Fitzgerald to help beat Worcester Polytechnic Institute 3-2. The win led to a doubleheader split as WPI won the opener 7-1.
In game one the top six batters in WPI’s order reached base at least twice, leading to three Engineers runs before the Owls recorded their first out. WPI’s starting pitcher, Everett Wonson, was dominant. He allowed one run over five innings of work. The Owls could only muster up four hits. Josh DeFrancisco, Sam Czel, Matthew Goldman and Ryan Linehan all had hits in the game. Linehan was responsible for Keene’s lone run with a RBI triple in the game.
The second game was more friendly to the Owls. Keene jumped out to an early lead and Shawn O’Donnell and Fitzgerald combined to allow just two runs. Offensively the Owls had their best performance of the season at the plate, finishing with a season-high 10 hits. Connor Walsh had a double and three hits, DeFrancisco went 2-for-4 with a run and a steal, Jake McMaster went 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run and Tyler Gammie went 2-for-3 with a RBI.
The Owls softball team kicked off its season on Friday with a matchup against Crown College. It was a tough opener as Crown put up nine runs before Keene State recorded an out. Crown went on to win 13-2 in five innings. Six of the runs in the first inning were unearned. Keene got a 3-for-3 performance at the plate from Meghan Moran, who also had a RBI. Sarah Cote, Lauren Rousseau, Olivia Albert and Alexis Blanchette all had hits in the game. It was the debuts of Albert, Lexi Boisvert, Emily White, Faith Barbieri, Elise Hastings and Alyssa Barlett for the Owls.
On Saturday morning, the Keene baseball team got back on the field, seeking its second win of the season. But the early-year struggles continued. Juniata defeated the Owls 3-1 at the Chain of Lakes Complex in Winter Haven, Fla. Keene had its chances throughout the game, as it left 11 men on base. Jake Morris had a solid effort on the mound for the Owls, going seven innings, allowing three runs and striking out four. DeFrancisco continued his solid start to the season, going 2-for-4 at the plate with a RBI and a walk. He has recorded a hit in all eight games thus far, including multi-hit games in his last two. On the season DeFrancisco is hitting .417 and has a .500 on-base percentage.
The Keene softball team played two games on Saturday and its early season woes also continued. The Owls struck first on the board in both of their games but couldn’t sustain the lead as Crown defeated Keene 5-2 and SUNY Oneonta beat the Owls 4-1.
Alexis Blanchette helped Keene establish a 2-0 lead for Keene against Crown. The starting pitcher fired four scoreless innings and the offense helped her out with two runs on the board for an early lead. After the first four innings, Crown’s offense came alive, striking for five runs in the next two innings to beat the Owls for the second time in as many days.
Against SUNY Oneonta, Keene scored a run in the bottom of the first inning to establish an early lead but was limited to just one hit over the next six innings by Red Dragons’ pitchers Hunter Vanarnum and Alyssa Bluethgen. The Owls finished with two hits in the game, one being Moran’s RBI single in the first inning. Moran has a hit in all three games so far for Keene and has a pair of RBI on the early season. It was the first meeting between the two schools since 2003.
Sunday the Keene baseball team faced off against No. 20 ranked Webster. The Owls couldn’t generate any offense against Webster starter Sean Beaver, as he struck out eight over five innings and then his relievers allowed five hits in the last four innings. Only two of Keene’s 13 hits went for extra bases, a double by Tom Meucci and a double by Garrett Davis. Tyler Gammie added to his hot stretch of hitting as he moved to 6-for-11 over his past three games at the plate. The loss dropped Keene to 1-8 on the season.
In Owls softball, Olivia Albert hit her first career home run, and it was a memorable one. Albert launched a home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to help Keene come from behind to beat Crown 4-3 in Sunday’s second game at the CenturyLink Sports Complex. In the first game Sunday, Keene lost to SUNY Brockport 4-2, despite outhitting the Golden Eagles 7-6.