It has become a habit. And it’s a habit the Husson University Eagles desperately want to break.
Husson has been the North Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament’s runner-up the last six seasons.
“It’s getting a little old,” acknowledged Husson sophomore first baseman Chris Maguire.
But the second-seeded Eagles are riding an 11-game winning streak entering today’s NAC tourney opener against third seed Thomas College of Waterville at East Field in Glens Falls, N.Y. and are anxious to snap the six-year string of frustration.
Top seed and defending champ Castleton State, 23-13, meets fourth seed University of Maine-Farmington, 4-22, in the noon opener. Husson, 28-11, and Thomas, 8-25, square off at 4.
The 28 wins is a school record.
There will be three games on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. and the championship round will be Sunday with a 9:30 a.m. game followed by a 1:30 championship game if necessary.
Husson upset Castleton State 5-3 in the tourney opener last year but, in the championship round, Castleton State beat the Eagles twice, 10-6 and 22-2, to earn their first NCAA Division III tourney berth.
Husson senior catcher and co-captain Nick Arthers said they are “obviously aware” of their penchant for finishing second “but we try not to think about it too much.
“We want to keep playing the way we’ve been playing,” added Arthers.
Husson senior right fielder and co-captain Jeff Miller and junior righthander Chris Morris feel this Husson team has more depth than last year.
“When called upon, everyone has fulfilled their part,” said Miller. “The best thing is you never know who is going to carry us. It may be the front of the lineup, it may be the middle of the lineup or it may be the end of the order. Or it could be our pitchers. Every game, you know somebody is going to step up and take charge, which is huge. We aren’t relying on one or two people every game and that keeps the pressure off . It makes it more relaxing and fun.”
“Our depth has been a huge key,” agreed Morris.
Six regulars are hitting at least .299 led by the record-setting Arthers, whose 60 RBIs set a school record. He is hitting .448 with a team-high nine homers.
Shortstop Ethan Guerette (.331-0-26, 25 stolen bases), Maguire (.331-1-29), LF Kyle Vanidestine (.313-2-21, 21 steals), DH Dennis Graham (.302-3-32) and 3B Jake Arthers (.299-0-17) are the others hitting at least .299.
Nate Adams (5-2, 3.00 earned run average), Morris (5-1, 3.74), Chris Pease (5-1, 3.78), Ryan Arsenault (4-3, 4.32), and Kyle Leeman (4-2, 6.03) have formed a deep and productive pitching staff although Leeman is nursing an arm injury.
Thomas lost all four regular season games to Husson and Thomas coach Greg King said, “If that’s not incentive enough, I don’t know what is.”
“We’ve got to throw strikes and play sharp defense,” said Thomas freshman catcher Dana Leland of Milford.
Shortstop Jared Fieldsend (.348-0-13) and Leland (.347-3-22) and pitchers Ben Goodall (3-3, 4.29) and Chris Farrar (2-3, 4.66) have paced the Terriers.
Nine Castleton State regulars are hitting at least .331 led by LF Matt Eisenhuth (.425-5-30), RF Garrett Bissonnette (.415-2-21) and 3B Billy Manley (.385-5-29). Ken Cook (6-2, 2.15) and Rob Turner (4-1, 3.38) headline the pitching staff.
UMF features 1B Josh Garneau (.322-1-14) and CF Phineas Peake (301-0-9) along with pitcher Craig Pendleton (2-2, 3.38).