Keene, NH – Now with the official 2012 NECBL season officially over, it’s time to look back on what truly was an unforgettable summer. Even though the Swamp Bats fell short of their ultimate goal of defending its 2011 NECBL championship title, the 2012 summer was full of franchise records and new memories.
First things first, a congratulations to the Newport Gulls for winning its NECBL-best fifth title with its 2-0 sweep of the Danbury Westerners in the championship series. The Gulls and the Swamp Bats jockeyed for the best overall record in the NECBL for the entire summer, including an unforgettable home-and-home series in the middle of July.
The season certainly started off with a bang for Keene. In the season opener against the Holyoke Blue Sox, the Swamp Bats put together a ninth inning rally to come-from-behind to win 5-4. The Keene native Brett Barrett (Southern Maine), in his third year with the Swamp Bats, had a walk-off two-run single to win it for Keene in exciting fashion.
The next day, the Swamp Bats celebrated last year’s championship by unveiling the Fay Vincent Trophy to the Keene community against the New Bedford Bay Sox. With three returning players from last year’s team (Barrett, David Mahoney, and Kyle Gehrs), they were able to display to all the fans in attendance the symbol of their success a summer ago.
Keene got off to a roaring start after losing to New Bedford on June 9th. The Swamp Bats won its next five games to take over first place in the Western Division; a position that Keene was not removed from for the rest of the season.
The fifth game of that winning streak was a historic 5-0 defeat of the Danbury Westerners on June 19th.
For only the second time in franchise history, the Swamp Bats threw a no-hitter. It was the first no hitter, since Don Jackson threw a seven-inning no hitter back in 1998, and the first combined no-hitter ever for Keene.
Kevin McAvoy (Bryant), Ryan Horstman (St. John’s), and Tyler Gauthier (Southern NH) combined to no-hit the Westerners, putting an exclamation point to the Keene five-game winning streak. McAvoy started the game, going 6.2 innings pitched before putting history in the hands of Horstman and Gauthier. Horstman threw .2 innings before Gauthier retired the final five batters in order to preserve the no-hitter. It was that game on June 19th that laid the foundation for what truly was an incredible season series between Keene and Danbury.
The next day Keene took an 8-2 lead over Danbury in Rogers Park before giving up seven unanswered runs to give Danbury a 9-8 win. That game featured an ejection of JP Sportman (Central Connecticut St.) after running over the Danbury catcher, a bomb of a home run for Fran Whitten (Maine) with an even bigger bat flip, and an ejection of the Danbury starter John Porter (Fordham) after throwing at the next batter Austin Wheeler (Georgia). Porter was suspended for five games after the ejection.
Keene responded to the difficult loss by winning 13 of its next 15 games to firmly establish its first place lead in the Western Division. After losing the next two games, Keene won its next three to carry momentum into the highly anticipated home-and-home series with the Newport Gulls.
With both teams entering the series nationally ranked (Newport was ranked one in the nation, Keene ranked number two), you can say the country had its eyes on the series. Keene decisely won the first game in Newport 20-8, thanks to eight home runs in the game. It was an eye-opening performance for the Swamp Bats which momentarily established Keene as the class of the NECBL. Unfortunately for Keene, it was the last success the team would experience for the next week.
Off the back of an eight run top of the eight inning for Newport against Keene the next day, the Gulls split the series with a 13-7 win. The Swamp Bats then dropped the next four games, including a double-header against the Holyoke Blue Sox. The five-game losing streak entering the All-Star break easily represented the worst baseball for Keene all season long.
But the Swamp Bats responded. After an NECBL All-Star game which saw ten Swamp Bats (Nelson Ward, Grant Kay, Dylan DelaCruz, Frankie Schwindel,Scott Simon, Sportman,Whitten,McAvoy,Horstman,andGauthier), Keene came out motivated.
The first game back was against the North Adams Steeplecats; a matchup of the top two teams in the division at the time. Despite a blown save in the top of the ninth, Gran Kay (Iowa Western CC) launched a walk-off solo home run to give Keene its first win in a week. The walk-off was the third of three walk-off victories for Keene on the year.
Keene continued to play well over the next week, culminating in a 9-7 defeat of the Danbury Westerners homer for Jared Walsh (Georgia) on his 19th birthday to give Keene the lead for good in the top of the to clinch the Western Division regular season title for the Swamp Bats. That game featured a three-run seventh inning.
The Swamp Bats won six of its last eight, including a sweep of a double-header against the Vermont Mountaineers on the last day of the regular season, to enter the postseason hot.
Keene ended the regular season breaking eight previous NECBL single-season records, while setting six new ones. It was a batting-dominated summer and Keene was at the forefront of the production. Keene broke NECBL records in team at-bats, runs, hits, home runs, runs batted in, total bases, batting average, and slugging percentage. However, the Laconia Muskrats tied the Swamp Bats with 73 team home runs to share the new record, while the Newport Gulls set records with better numbers in runs and RBI, despite Keene’s total also breaking the previous NECBL record.
As for team records, Sportman set a new single-season record with 41 RBI, breaking Jim Negrych’s previous record of 39 set in 2004. Additionally, Dylan Delacruz (Central Connecticut St.) tied the single-season hits record with 56 hits. Sportman finished second in the NECBL in batting average, while Frankie Schwindel (St. John’s) finished third in batting with a .380 average.
In the postseason, Keene wasted no time getting things started. In game one, the Swamp Bats defeated the Vermont Mountaineers 22-0 nothing. It is the most runs ever scored by Keene in an NECBL game, regular season or post season. It is also the largest run-differential for the Swamp Bats in either a regular season or postseason game. Keene launched eight home runs in the game, highlighted by two home run games by Sportman, Schwindel, and Walsh.
The Swamp Bats completed the series sweep of Vermont with an exciting 8-6 win the next day to eliminate Vermont. Keene finished the year with a 9-1 record against the Mountaineers. Unfortunately for Keene, the Danbury Westerners were waiting in the Western Division Finals.
Danbury swept the Swamp Bats in two very exciting games to advance to the NECBL Championship Series. The Westerners took game one at Alumni Field 9-8 and game two at Rogers Park 12-11. Keene trailed Danbury 12-2 after a nine-run bottom of the fourth inning in game two before Keene’s comeback attempt to save its season fell just short. Nine unanswered runs for the Swamp Bats brought them within one run, but Danbury finished off the game to take series.
It was a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise very successful season. Injuries (Luke Crumley, Artie Lewicki, and Kyle Gehrs) certainly did not help their cause, but the resilient 2012 squad still competed and performed at an extremely high level.
While the 2012 summer might be remembered as a missed opportunity with an extremely talented team, the memories and exciting victories shared will certainly allow the Keene to keeps its head held high.
Oh, and countdown is on: roughly a little less than ten months until the Purple and Black can take the field at Alumni once again in a collective effort to bring the NECBL title back to the city it belongs in.
Keene N.H. – In a nail-biter with many offensive rallies and great defensive plays, the Danbury Westerners came up on top in the Western Division Finals series opener against Keene, defeating the Swamp Bats 9-8.
After Keene starter Ryan Horstman (St. John’s) struck out the side in the top of the first, the Swamp Bats and the Westerners proceeded to exchange runs throughout the game.
Keene scored in the first off an RBI single from Grant Kay (Iowa Western Community College). Danbury answered in the second with a leadoff home run from Andrew Garner (Tulane) and a two-run homer by Tyler Gurman (Westchester Community College) to give the Westerners a 3-1 lead.
Danbury continued its powerful hitting in the third, pulling ahead 6-1 on a two-run home run by Zach Shank (Marist) and a solo homer from Jake Stinnett (Maryland). The Swamp Bats answered in the bottom of the inning on a Kay RBI single and a Jared Walsh (Georgia) two-out-two-run single to put Keene within two.
The Westerners added a run on a homer from Michael Thomas (Kentucky) in the top of the fourth off of Keene reliever Joshua Ingham (Central Connecticut St.). It is the first time this summer that Thomas has gone deep, and the hit put Danbury up 7-4 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.
Dylan Moore (Cypress Community College) led off with a single and Dylan Delacruz (Central Connecticut St.) singled to advance Moore to third base. Kay followed with a two-out RBI single, chasing Danbury starter David Gibson (Southern N.H.) off the mound. John Porter (Fordham) entered and proceeded to strike out JP Sportman (Central Connecticut St.). The pitch got by the Westerners’ catcher and Sportman reached first to load the bases. Porter then hit Frankie Schwindel (St. John’s) to plate Mike Papi (Virginia) and make the score 7-6.
Keene’s Brett Barrett (Southern Maine) tied the game in the fifth inning on a leadoff home run. Danbury’s Tom Zengel (North Carolina) answered with an RBI double in the sixth to regain the lead.
The Swamp Bats rallied in the seventh inning off of Westerner reliever Eric Luksis (Tampa). Walsh led off with a single, and one out later Fran Whitten (Maine) singled. Moore bunted to load the bases for Papi. Papi earned a seven pitch walk to score Walsh, tie the game, and force Luksis off the rubber with just one out. Tom Coughlin (Central Connecticut St.) replaced Luksis and retired the next two batters, preventing any go-ahead runs to score.
Walsh toed the rubber for the eighth and struck out the side. Coughlin did his job as well, retiring the side in the bottom of the inning. Heading into the ninth, the score was knotted at 8-8.
Daniel Spingola (Georgia Tech) hit an RBI single with one out in the ninth to put Danbury up 9-8. Moore then converted an impressive backhanded 6-4-3 double play with Kay and Barrett to get out of the inning, but the damage was done, as the Swamp Bats went into the bottom of the inning trailing by one.
Keene was unable to reach base against closer Stinnett, dropping game one of the best of three playoff series 9-8. Stinnett earns the win and Walsh earns the loss.
The Swamp Bats head to Danbury, CT Wednesday night in must-win situation. First pitch at Rogers Park is scheduled for 6:30pm.
Montpelier, VT- The Keene Swamp Bats completed its two-game sweep of the Vermont Mountaineers Saturday night to advance to the Western Division Finals. Keene defeated Vermont 8-6 to eliminate the Mountaineers from playoff contention.
Despite a four-run comeback effort from the Mountaineers in the bottom of the ninth inning, Vermont was not able to erase a six-run deficit to save its season.
Scott Simon (Washington St.) toed the rubber for Keene, matching up with Casey Delgado (Austin Peay) for Vermont in a must-win game for the Mountaineers.
Vermont certainly started off the game with a bang, as Rob Kelly (St. Anselm) homered on the first pitch of the game from Simon. Kelly, who was moved up to the lead-off spot for Vermont in game 2, quickly got to Simon to give the Mountaineers the 1-0 lead. Kelly had led the NECBL in runs batted in during the regular season, putting up a record-breaking 45 RBI.
Delgado pitched a very efficient first three innings for the Mountaineers before falling into trouble in the top of the fourth. With one out, JP Sportman (Central Connecticut St.) drew a walk against Delgado, the only walk he gave up in the game. Sportman came around to score on an RBI double from Frankie Schwindel (St. John’s). Two batters later, with two outs, Cameron O’Brien (Louisville) blooped a single into shallow center field, scoring Schwindel from second to give Keene a 2-1 lead.
Fran Whitten (Maine), the next batter, launched an RBI double to straight-away center field to score O’Brien from first and give Keene a 3-1 lead. The two out rally continued, with RBI singles from Dylan Moore (Cypress Community College) and Mike Papi (Virginia) to extend the lead to 5-1.
Delgado was pulled from the game after Papi’s RBI single after an effective first three innings on the mound. He finished after 3.2 innings pitched, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.
Vermont scratched out a run to make the score 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Brett Johnson (TCU) tripled to deep centerfield, and scored on an RBI groundout from Cole Peragine (Stony Brook).
Keene added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning off of Vermont reliever Matt McAllister (Westchester). Schwindel launched an RBI double off the wall in left-center field, scoring Grant Kay (Iowa Western CC). Schwindel finished the game 2-5 with two runs batted in and a run scored.
Simon continued to work on the mound for Keene entering the bottom of the eighth inning. Through the first seven innings on the mound, Simon only threw 69 pitches, while giving up two runs. He retired the last 12 batters he faced. Simon finished his impressive performance with seven innings pitched, allowing two runs (both earned) on only three hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
The Swamp Bats put two more runs on the board in the top of the eighth to extend its lead to 8-2. Moore’s second RBI single of the game paired with an RBI fielder’s choice for Dylan Delacruz (Central Connecticut St.) extended Keene’s lead to 8-2.
David Mahoney (UConn) entered the game to finish off the Mountaineers for the final two innings. He pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, but was quickly pulled in the bottom of the ninth after giving up a two-run homer to Logan Pierce (Troy), which brought Vermont within four runs.
With one out, Mahoney was taken out for Rob Rogers (Keystone College), who gave up two singles with one strikeout in the three batters he faced to bring Vermont within three runs. Tyler Gauthier (Southern NH) then came on to finish the game for Keene. He then allowed Ryan Karl (Louisville) to reach on an error, which scored a runner from second to make the score 8-6.
PJ Jones (Washington St.) replaced Karl as a pinch runner at first, while Greg Partyka (Bradley) stepped up as a pinch hitter as well. With Partyka representing the tying run, Jones took off from first to attempt to steal second base. Unfortunately for Vermont, Jones was thrown out by O’Brien to not only end the game, but end the season for the Mountaineers. In a season where Vermont stole 112 bases as a team, second-most in NECBL history, its season ended on an attempted steal.
With Keene holding on for the 8-6 win, the Swamp Bats successfully swept the Mountaineers to advance to the Western Division Finals. Keene will have home field advantage with the series starting Monday night at 6:30 pm at Alumni Field. They will take on the winner of the Danbury – North Adams series, which will have a decisive game three played tomorrow at Rogers Park in Danbury, Conn.
Keene N.H. – The Keene Swamp Bats played their first game of the 2012 NECBL playoffs against the Mountaineers Friday night, demolishing Vermont22-0with stellar defense and sweltering hitting.
After a solid defensive first inning from Kevin McAvoy (Bryant), the Swamp Bats came out with hot bats to put up four. With one out, Dylan Delacruz (Central Connecticut St.) singled. Grant Kay (Iowa Western Community College) continued his powerful hitting with a two-run home run. JP Sportman (Central Connecticut St.) followed by ripping a homer on a fantastic nine-pitch at bat. Frankie Schwindel (St. John’s) smoked another home run, giving Keene back-to-back-to-back home runs against Vermont starter Alex Haines (Seton Hill).
The Mountaineers threatened in the top of the third, when, with two outs and a runner on, Logan Pierce (Troy) ripped a rocket to straight centerfield, sure to be a home run. Centerfielder Mike Papi (Virginia) leapt up and caught the line drive, his glove right above the top of the fence, robbing Pierce of a homer.
Sportman kept the energy going, leading off the bottom of the inning with his second home run of the evening, putting Keene up 5-0. One out later, Jared Walsh (Georgia) upheld the Swamp Bats hitting spree with Keene’s fifth homer of the game.
McAvoy’s strong pitching continued through his outing, highlighted by back-to-back strike outs in the top of the seventh inning with bases loaded and one out; he allowed no one to cross the plate. McAvoy finished going seven innings, giving up no runs on four hits, with one walk and six strike outs.
Keene continued to smash the ball in the bottom of the seventh inning against Mountaineer reliever Steve Ostapeck (Villanova). Kay reached base on a dropped third strike, and then sprinted to third base on a wild pitch. Schwindel hit Kay in on an RBI single with one out. Walsh smoked his second home run of the night next to score Schwindel and put the Swamp Bats up 9-0. Three batters later, Dylan Moore ripped a three-run home run to chase Ostapeck off the mound.
Brad Schnelle (Seton Hill) came in for relief, but couldn’t do much better against Keene’s scorching bats. The Swamp Bats loaded the bases on a Papi walk, a single from Kay, and hit batter in Sportman. Schwindel stepped up and hammered a grand slam line drive over the left field fence to put Keene up 16-0. Schwindel finished the game going 4-6 with two homers, six RBI and fourruns scored.
The Swamp Bats hitting would not be stifled in the eighth. Brett Barrett (Southern Maine) led off with a double. Papi walked with two outs, and Delacruz followed with a monster three-run home run to force Vermont reliever Casey Brighton (Plattsburgh) off the rubber.
Brian O’Grady (Rutgers) replaced Brighton in hopes of finally earning the third out. Walsh and Barrett hit consecutive RBI singles to score Sportman and Schwindel. Kay also crossed the plate on a wild pitch. O’Grady recorded the third out on a Fran Whitten (Maine) strike out with runners on the corners. Heading into the ninth inning, Keene led Vermont 22-0.
Swamp Bat reliever Zachary Brian (St. Anselm College) finished the job, striking out Greg Partyka (Bradley) to end the game.
Keene finished with nine home runs and 22 hits. McAvoy earns the win and Haines receives the loss. The Swamp Bats head to Montpelier, VT Saturday to take on Vermont for game two of a best-of-three series. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30pm.