As the road to baseball’s College World Series commences with NCAA Division I regional play this weekend, welcome to the crazy season for Kevin Watterson and the Keene Swamp Bats.
The Bats open their 21st season in eight days, with three games at home to start.
The team’s roster — per usual — is dotted with players whose arrival here will hinge on the fate of their college teams in postseason play. Conference action concluded Sunday; the bracket for the 64-team field was announced Monday morning.
It’s the time of year that throws the Keene’s team’s first week to 10 days into a bit of chaos, in a good-bad way.
Watterson, the only president the franchise has ever had, has been doing his best to keep an eye on all of it.
For instance, Stetson lost to Liberty Saturday afternoon in its conference championship game. The Swamp Bats’ roster features three players from Stetson.
Stetson did not get a bid, so Watterson said he expects Kyle Ball, Andrew MacNeil and Michael Bacica to be here for the team’s opener Wednesday, June 5.
Stetson’s improbable run through the ASUN Tournament came up 90 feet short. With the tying run on third and two outs in the ninth inning, Noah Dickerson grounded to second to seal Liberty’s 4-3 win over the Hatters. MacNeil led the ninth with a single, and Jorge Arenas’ two-out hit put runners at the corners, but that’s as close as Stetson would get as Dickerson grounded out to end the game.
On the flip side, Liberty, by winning the championship game, gets an automatic bid to the NCAAs. That means Keene will be without Liberty’s Will Wagner and Logan Mathieu early on. “Painful,” Watterson described it. “Two middle-of-the-lineup bats.”
Georgia Southern was beaten in its conference championship game by Coastal Carolina. Watterson said three of its players should be here for the start: Mitchell Golden, Jonathan Edwards and David Johnson. Golden was a mainstay on last year’s SwampBats squad, batting .324 in 41 games.
Central Connecticut beat Bryant in the Northeast Conference title tilt, which will likely delay the arrival of two of its players: Peyton Stephens and Dave Matthews. Central Connecticut is going to Arkansas as the No. 4 seed to play the Razorbacks Friday in Fayetteville.
Other rostered players whose teams did not crack the NCAA field and who should be in uniform June 5 are Tulane’s David Bedgood and Josh Bates, and Maryland’s Sean Heine and Randy Bednar.
The Bats are short on catchers, so Watterson has signed Matt Trehub of William & Mary.
“My gut tells me we will need to sign a couple players this week, one a catcher for certain,” Watterson said. “A utility position player probably, too.”
Those certain not to be here for the first pitch are catchers Dominic Keegan of Vanderbilt and Seth Cadell of Eastern Carolina.
Vanderbilt landed the No. 2 overall seed and plays Ohio State in the Nashville Regional Friday. Eastern Carolina will host a regional as the tournament’s 10th overall seed. It begins against Quinnipiac Friday. Quinnipiac outlasted Fairfield in 13 innings to win the MAAC title and its automatic bid.
Joe Simeone, a right-handed pitcher from UConn, will not be here by June 5. UConn faces Nebraska in an NCAA Regional opening game on Friday.
Oklahoma City is the region’s top seed and Harvard rounds out the four teams in that regional.
Also missing for the early going will be July Sosa, a pitcher from Monroe Junior College, which made the NJCAA DI College World Series.
UConn (36-22) is looking to continue its late-season momentum. Beginning on May 14, UConn won at Rhode Island, took two of three from Tulane in a key, American Athletic Conference regular season-ending series, then won its first three games of the AAC tournament in Clearwater, Fla., to advance to the championship game Sunday. UConn’s run in the American Athletic Conference tournament ended with a 22-5 loss to Cincinnati.
Four University of Virginia plays are on the SwampBats’ roster.
Paul Kosanovich and Zach Messinger are driving to Keene this Saturday, Watterson said. He said he’d speak with the Virginia pitching coach Karl Kuhn today to confirm that two other expected arrivals have not made last-minute changes. They are Christian Sanchez and Ben Harris, a two-way player likely to get a lot of mound time in Keene.
The Cavaliers missed the tournament for a second straight year, finishing 32-24.
Kent State junior Cam Touchette is expected to need shoulder surgery and might not make it to Keene, Watterson said.
Cordell Dunn Jr. was penciled in to return as the team’s catcher, but he had a monster season for Grayson College, and Watterson expects he’ll be taken in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Dunn hit .386 with 12 homers and 74 RBI in 55 games for the community college team in Denison, Texas. Dunn hit .321 for the Bats last year.
Former Swamp Bats player Dylan Moore, Seattle Mariners, optioned to Tacoma (AAA) during the weekend.