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Owl Baseball Team Earns First-Ever NCAA Berth

KEENE, N.H. 5/14/07 - The Keene State baseball team is on its way to Cape Cod. The Owls won’t be on vacation, but making their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re going to the show,” said an elated Keene State Coach Ken Howe. “It’s been a long wait, but we’re finally there.”

Seeded fifth in the seven-team double-elimination New England region hosted by the Eastern College Athletic Conference, Keene State (29-13) will face fourth- seed Curry College (27-7) of Milton, Massachusetts, in an opening game that will be played Wednesday morning (9:30 a.m.) at Whitehouse Field in Harwich, Massachusetts.

KSC earned an at-large berth to the 53-team tournament after dropping a 4-3 game to Eastern Connecticut State (ECSU) in the Little East Championship game. The Colonels defeated Salve Regina University 4-3 to capture the Commonwealth Coast Conference’s (CCC) automatic bid. It was the team’s third overall CCC title and first since 1997.

Up at the crack of dawn - do in part to a sick family dog - Howe decided to turn on the computer. “The DIII baseball page had us in, but I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it on the NCAA site,” Howe said.

“I thought we did what we needed to do in the LEC Tournament to get into the NCAAs,” Howe said. “Still in the back of my mind, I knew a lot of things could happen. I honestly didn’t feel good about it until 3:30 this morning when the selections came out.”

Meanwhile, Owl players huddled together around a computer screen to get the good news. “We all jumped up and hugged each other,” said sophomore outfielder Jeff Perkins. “It was an emotional time.”

“I couldn’t be happier for Coach Howe,” said Marty Testo, a former Owl player and current associate head coach. “We’re going to a tournament that we’ve been dying to get into for many years. “I thought we were close last year, and it didn’t work out, but this time things broke in our favor.”

“This year’s seniors were freshmen four years ago when this program started to improve in leaps and bounds,” Testo added. “It’s great they can conclude their careers at the NCAA Tournament.”

Keene State and Curry join a field that includes top-seed Wheaton College (31-11), number two ECSU (34-10), number three Williams (25-8), number six Western New England (27-10), and number seven St. Joseph’s College (Maine) (34-10).

The Owls, who earned ECAC berths the past two seasons, have faced two of the tournament teams during the regular season. After being swept by ECSU (8-2, 3-2) in a regular season doubleheader, KSC split a pair of games against the Warriors in the LEC Tournament, winning 6-3 and dropping a 4-3 heart-breaker in the finals. The Owls also lost to Wheaton 4-3 in a 10-inning game.

Howe feels the Owls can compete with all the teams in the tournament, “I have confidence in my players,” he said. “They battled back all season. If we play up to our potential, we have a chance to do some things.”

Keene State last played Curry in a first-round game of the 2005 ECAC Tournament. Greg Ford hit a grand slam home run, and Rick Stromgren pitched seven strong innings to lead the Owls to a 10-3 victory.

We’re giving the ball to Stromgren for game number one. He’s one of the guys that helped get us here,” said Howe. “Hopefully, history will repeat itself, and he’ll have the same results.”

D3Cast will be providing complete, live Internet audio and video coverage of every game of the 2007 NCAA Division III New England Baseball Regional from Whitehouse Field in Harwich, MA. Tournament information is here.

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