NCAA Baseball Tournament: Owls hold off Bears 3-2; Video Interview with Ken Howe Inside!
MANSFIELD, CONN. 5/17/12 – Don't put the bats and balls away just yet. Keene State College extended its season at least for another day with a 3-2 victory over Bridgewater State University at the NCAA Division III Regional Baseball Tournament at the Eastern Baseball Stadium in Mansfield, Conn. on Thursday morning.
Looking to fight its way out of the losers' bracket, Keene State (32-14), the fourth seed in the tournament, will face the loser of the game between third seed Trinity College and second seed St. Joseph's College of Maine on Friday at 1:15 p.m. Eighth seed Bridgewater State concludes its season with a 30-15 record.
"We just wanted to get an opportunity to play the next day and we accomplished that goal,' said KSC Coach Ken Howe. "It was a tough game for either team to lose."
Playing the Bears for the first time, the Owls were held in check in the early innings by senior pitcher Jim Balboni (Townsend, Mass.), who fanned five of the first nine batters he faced.
Keene State finally got to Balboni in the top of the fourth inning, stringing three hits together to take a 1-0 lead. Junior Greg Bates (Salem, N.H.) led off the inning with a single to center. Senior Kyle Morrill (Auburn, N.H.) followed with a single to left , and senior Erik Bergstrom (Enfield, Conn.) lined a single to left to bring home Bates with the first-run of the game. "I didn't hit well yesterday, so I was just trying to make better contact," said Bergstrom. "I was lucky that he gave me a good pitch to hit and I drove it in the hole between third and short."
The Owls added to their lead, scoring two more runs in the sixth inning. With one out, Morrill doubled and came home on Bergstrom's RBI triple that rolled to the fence in right center. Coming up with two-outs, sophomore Nick Vita's (Spofford, N.H.) single up the middle brought home Bergstrom with the third run. "My first two at-bats I went down looking, so I was just trying to be aggressive at the plate," said Vita. "I got a good pitch to hit and was able to drive in up the middle."
Senior Tim Thiesing (South Grafton, Mass.) gave the Owls a solid start on the mound, pitching into the seventh inning. "I felt I had good velocity and my breaking ball was working real well, said Thiesing, who gave up two runs on five hits while fanning five and walking two to improve his record to 5-0. "It's a regional tournament, so I needed to step up and give the team a good outing. It could be my last outing for the team, so I wanted to go out with a bang."
Thiesing ran into trouble in the seventh when the Bears loaded the bases with one out. Sophomore Vinnie Mangiagli (East Hartford, Conn.) took over on the mound and gave up one run on a fielder's choice ground out. Junior Trevor Lawson (Easton, Mass.) lined a shot down to Bates at third. Bates, who was injured on the play and had to leave the game, dove to stop the ball, but a run scored to make it a one-run game. Mangiagli got the final two out to preserve the Owls' lead.
The Bears threatened again in the eighth inning, putting runners of the corners with two outs. Junior Tim Quagliaroli (Windsor Locks, Conn.) came in and got out of the jam when he got senior Corey Batista (Fall River, Mass.) to pop out to freshman catcher Chuck Vogt (Windsor, Locks, Conn.). "I just tried to keep the ball low," said Quagliaroli. "I threw the right pitch at the right time and he popped it right up."
Quagliaroli got the side in the ninth inning to pick-up his fifth save of the season.
Morrill and Bergstrom each had two hits for the Owls, who finished the game with eight hits.
Balboni went the distance for the Bears, giving up three runs on eight hits with 12 strikeouts and two walks.
"It never gets any easier," said Howe. "The longer you go the players start to get tired and you have to find ways to grind out wins."
One of nine seniors on the team, Bergstrom wants to continue his Owl career. "Some of the seniors might be thinking this might be our last game in an Owls' uniform, so you want to go out there and leave everything on the field," he said. "There's a lot of incentive to keep the season going. No one wants to go home yet."