Bri Keenan of Greenland recalled the time she spent with her father looking for a college to attend.
“I was a junior in high school and my dad mentioned to me that year that Tufts University had very good field hockey and softball programs,” said Keenan. “He said that year the field hockey program made it to the Final Four and the softball program made it to the World Series. He said if I attended Tufts, I could win a championship in each sport. I just look at him and said ‘yeah. whatever dad, whatever’”.
Five years later, it appears her dad knew what he was talking about.
Last month, Keenan led Tufts to its second straight NCAA Division III softball national championship. In 14 postseason games, the junior third baseman batted .409 (18 for 44), scored 12 runs, batted in five runs and stole four bases.
Her outstanding accomplishments allowed her to capture the Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center New Hampshire Union Leader Athlete of the Month honors for May. Keenan will be honored at the New Hampshire Union Leader’s annual sports banquet, The Leaders: A Celebration of New Hampshire Sports Champions next winter.
The back-to-back softball titles, coupled with the 2012 national field hockey championship, have given Keenan the honor of raising the national championship plaque three times in two seasons.
“It’s definitely a dream come true and it’s so satisfying because it requires so much time and hard work to get to that point in the season and win it all,” said Keenan. “This year in softball, it was very difficult to repeat. We weren’t the underdog like we were last year, but we had most of our team back with the exception of two pitchers and a second baseman who graduated last summer.”
Keenan proved to be productive with the bat and glove during a postseason in which Tufts won 13 of 14 games. She had six multiple-hit games in that stretch, including a pair in which she collected three hits. One of those three-hit games was a 2-0 victory over host Bridgewater (Mass.) State in the opening round of the NCAA Super Regional. That performance helped her earn tournament Most Outstanding Player honors.
It was her glove that perhaps saved the season for the Jumbos in the second game of the NCAA Tournament finals against Salisbury (Md.) University in Tyler, Texas.
“It was a best-of-three series and we lost the first game, 2-1,” said Keenan. “It was our first playoff loss in two seasons and it was kind of a wakeup call for us.”
In Game 2, Tufts managed to pull out a 6-0, 14-inning win, but Keenan made a key play in the eighth inning that kept her team’s season alive. “They were the home team and they had the bases loaded with one out,” said Keenan, playing third base. “The ball was hit to me and I knew I didn’t have much time to throw home. I just reacted quickly and got the force out for the second out. The next hitter for them was an All-American and she lined out to end the inning. We ended up winning the game and that was by far the most stressful game I ever competed in. Everything was on the line that day.”
Keenan recorded five putouts and three assists in that game. The following day, the Jumbos won the national championship with a 6-0 decision.
In 2012, Keenan was the starting goalkeeper during her field hockey national championship season.
Keenan had a successful high school career at Portsmouth High. In softball she was the starting right fielder and leadoff hitter during her freshman and sophomore seasons when the Clippers won consecutive Class I softball titles in 2008 and 2009. Her field hockey teams didn’t win a state title, but as a sophomore keeper on her JV team, she led the Clippers to an undefeated season. Her team didn’t allow a goal in 14 games.
She was named All-State first team during her junior and senior seasons in softball. A captain on both of those teams, Keenan was also named Softball Player of the Year for Class I during her senior season.
In field hockey, Keenan was a second team All-State selection her senior season. Keenan also said she was recently named a team captain on Tufts’ 2014 field hockey team.
Keenan garnered 29 points in the balloting for Athlete of the Month honors. Placing second with 27 points was Mickenzie Larivee of Amherst. The Boston University-bound senior lacrosse player amassed 51 goals and 25 assists during May, leading Souhegan High of Amherst to an 11-0 record during the month.
Keenan became the second New Hampshire athlete from Tufts to win the Athlete of the Month award this year, joining indoor track and field star Jana Hieber of Goffstown, the January Athlete of the Month winner.
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PREVIOUS 2014 WINNERS: January — Jana Hieber, Goffstown, track and field. February — Ashante Little, Seabrook, track and field. March — Sean Doherty, Conway, biathlon skiing. April — Whitney Roberts, Tamworth, softball.
To submit a nomination for New Hampshire Union Leader Athlete of the Month, email details to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Athlete of the Month” in the subject field.