Chandler twins complete softball careers at Keene State
KEENE, N.H. 5/15/12 – Don’t be surprised if you see Keene State coach Charlie Beach watching some high school softball games in Wakefield, Mass., this spring.
Beach has had good luck recruiting players from the town, located 10 miles north of Boston. First there were the Gerrior girls – twins Janel and Jul, who played both soccer and softball for the Owls in the early 90s, and most recently Jessica Fiorenza and twin sisters Haley and Laura Chandler.
Seniors Haley and Laura recently completed their Keene State careers in fine fashion by helping to lead the Owls to the NCAA Division III tournament – the program’s first national berth in five years. “It’s hard to believe it’s over. It feels like I just got here,” said Haley. “I’m going to miss it a lot.
“I don’t want it to end,” said Laura. “I’ve learned a lot, I’ve experienced a lot, and I don’t regret coming here at all.”
Beach wouldn’t mind if the Chandlers hung around for a few more years. “I don’t think that I’ve had more complete athletes than these two – they run, they hit, they throw, and they’re very aggressive in their defensive positions,” said Beach, who just completed his 27th season in the Keene State dugout. “Unfortunately – like all of my players – they have a four-year contract and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Laura, the Owls’ center fielder, and Haley, the team’s first baseman, spent their four years racking up statistics and wins. The numbers they’ve compiled are impressive. They had a combined 378 hits, including 65 doubles, nine triples, and 38 home runs. They scored 293 runs, accumulated 151 RBIs, batting a combined .360. The Chandlers also caused havoc on the base paths, swiping 131 of the 147 bases they attempted to steal.
More importantly, their efforts paid off in the win column. During their careers, Keene State won a combined 116 games – the most by any four-year class in the history of the program.
The twin sisters had similar sports histories. Following the lead of their older brother Chris, Laura and Haley both played basketball and baseball before transitioning to softball. Highly competitive regardless of the sport, the Chandlers credit Mark Corbett, now the girls’ basketball coach at Austin Prep in Reading, Mass., for teaching them not only fundamentals but a fervor for the game. “He molded us into becoming effective basketball players and those skills transferred into other sports,” said Laura.
"He loves the game and put his heart into everything,” Haley added.
An athlete for all seasons, Laura played field hockey, basketball, and softball in high school while Haley concentrated on basketball and softball, playing at Wakefield Memorial. While there were occasional wins over rivals Melrose and Reading, the Chandlers were continuously consumed by whatever sport they were playing. “I was obsessed with it. I couldn’t imagine not playing a sport,” said Laura.
“I like being busy and hate being bored,” said Haley. “I loved all the physical activity.”
Although they never actually talked about it, there was unspoken pact that the twins would attend the same school. A suggestion by their mother, Kate, to visit Keene State, plus a ringing endorsement from KSC alum Janel Gerrior Stevenson, a physical education instructor at Galvin Middle School, brought the pair to the campus in southwestern New Hampshire.
The Chandlers brought to Keene State the same dedication and drive they displayed in high school. Although they initially moved around the field playing different positions, the dynamic duo quickly injected the Keene State program with their athletic skills and infectious love of the game.
While he never envisioned the Chandlers makes such a major impact on his program, Beach quickly became enamored with their physical skills and knowledge of the game. “They’ve become much smarter,” he said. “They’ve taken a lot of the concepts that we have and integrated them to a point where a lot of times they were doing things without me prompting them with signals. They know what the situations are and what should be done, and they do it.”
Finishing their careers with enough memories to fill both dugouts at the Owl Athletic Complex field, the Chandlers’ motivation came from personal pride and a sibling rivalry that followed them to Keene State. “We’re always going to have the sibling rivalry. I think it pushes us,” said Laura.
It should come to no surprise that Laura and Haley have been recognized numerous times for their play on the field with All-Region, All-ECAC, and All-Little East honors the past four years. Laura, the first person to go through KSC’s athletic training program as a full-time athlete, and Haley, a Spanish major, who earned district Academic All-America honors last year, have also excelled in the classroom.
After capturing three consecutive ECAC New England championships, Keene State and the Chandlers finally had the opportunity to display their skills on the national diamond with the team’s berth to the NCAA tournament. “You couldn’t ask for a better way to end your career,” said Haley. “The fact that we waited four years for a chance to go to the tournament made it that much sweeter.”
Jessica Fiorenza, a junior, who played with the Chandlers from little league to college, will now be the lone Wakefield native on the Keene State team. “It’s going to be strange looking out on the field and not seeing them anymore,” said Fiorenza. “We’re going to miss them.”