It hasn't been the season the SwampBats were hoping for, but they're still in the playoff hunt

·4 min read

Jul. 16—After a 4-0 start to the season, the SwampBats certainly didn't expect to be in this position.

Since that 4-0 start, the SwampBats are 8-19. They've lost five of their last seven. And they've been at the bottom of the Northern Division for much of that stretch.

Holding a 12-19 record as of Friday morning, things went downhill in a hurry for Keene. Its 10-18 record through the first 28 games was the second-worst record in franchise history, only better than the 2015 team that was 8-20 over the first 28 games.

But — despite all the negative statistics — Keene finds itself just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot with 13 games left in the regular season. Somehow, the team is right there, and they know it.

"Yeah, we're definitely talking about it," said shortstop Paxton Tomaini after Wednesday's doubleheader sweep over Upper Valley. "Obviously, it hasn't fallen our way so much this year, but we didn't come here to lose. We're all competitors at heart and we want to win every time we step on the field."

The three division winners earn a spot in the playoffs, then the three teams with the next best record — regardless of division — earn wild card spots. The top two seeds will have a first-round bye.

At the end of Thursday night, Vermont (25-5), Bristol (23-8) and Newport (20-11) were the three division leaders, with Mystic (18-12), Martha's Vineyard (17-13) and Valley (15-17) in the three wild card spots.

Ocean State, Upper Valley, Sanford, Winnipesaukee and Danbury all sit ahead of Keene in the standings, but those five teams are separated by just 2 1/2 games.

"There's a logjam after first place," said Keene manager Shaun McKenna after the team's loss to the Mystic Schooners last Friday night. "So, if we can put something together ... but we have to stay positive. We have to go one game at a time."

That's what McKenna has been preaching to his team all year long.

"We don't think any past the next game," McKenna said. "You go with that game in hand and move on and then figure out the next game after that."

"We're just taking it one day at a time," echoed pitcher Grant Besser, who leads the team with a 0.55 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched. "We're wanting to make that run. Really just taking it one day at a time, we're kind of just sticking to that plan. That's all it is, taking it one game at a time. Quit looking at the future and worry about where we are now."

Keene has three games against Winnipesaukee next week, a doubleheader on Monday at Robbie Mills Field in Laconia before Keene hosts the Muskrats Tuesday at Alumni Field. Keene then plays a home-and-home with North Shore on Wednesday and Thursday before traveling to Martha's Vineyard on Friday.

Needless to say, the standings at the end of next week could look very different.

Depending on how it goes for the SwampBats, that could be a positive thing for the team, or a very bad thing.

"It's hard to win a championship in this game, at any level," McKenna said. "Some of these guys may never see that in a lifetime. And if we just put something together and get on a run, we can get to that point where we might get a wild card and then we'll go one game at a time there."

Keene hit a roadblock with a gut-wrenching loss Thursday night against Sanford, a 9-6 loss that saw the SwampBats blow an early 5-0 lead. With a chance to get back on track this weekend, the 'Bats know that if they get hot at the right time, they can still make some noise.

"We know we're just a couple games back, and we're right there," Tomaini said. "If we get on a hot streak, we'll be right in it. We just need a chance to get in, and there's no stopping us."

All stats as of Friday morning.

Chris Detwiler can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1411, or cdetwiler@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Detwiler.