Former George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill star Collin Henry continues to help his University of Southern Maine Huskies stay atop the NCAA Division III national rankings.
The lefthanded-hitting Henry, a junior, has been on a tear of late and will hope that trend continues today when the Huskies host the four-team, double-elimination Little East Conference Tournament at the USM Stadium in Gorham.
Top seed USM, 34-5, faces No. 4 UMass-Boston, 19-20, at noon with No. 2 Eastern Connecticut State, 31-6, taking on Keene State, 23-14, at 3 p.m.
USM is looking for its first LEC title since 1999.
There will be three games on Friday and the championship round will begin at noon on Saturday.
Henry, who is in the starting rotation and either plays first base or is the designated hitter, is hitting .521 over his last 12 games with three homers, eight doubles and 24 runs batted in.
He has 25 hits in 48 at-bats over that span and has scored 17 runs.
That has raised his average to .354 and he has five homers, 42 runs batted in and a team-high 19 doubles. He has also scored 45 runs.
Henry said he has never had a stretch like this in his college career. He hit .342 a year ago with three homers and 36 runs-batted in after hitting .291 as a freshman with five homers and 25 RBIs.
“I’ve always been a steady hitter but I’ve never been hot like this. And I don’t even mean numbers-wise, I mean hitting balls well up the middle [consistently],” said Henry who feels he is in a comfort zone at the plate these days.
He struggled a little early in the season “because I was trying to pull the ball too much and I was a little too anxious. I was hitting under .300 and that isn’t normal for me. So I started waiting on the ball a little longer and trying to hit it up the middle. One of my coaches had me move up on the plate a little more and I’ve kept my weight back and kept my hands inside the ball.”
In addition to hitting the ball to all fields, it has also enabled him to extend his arms and pull the ball with power when pitchers come inside on him.
On the mound, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound lefty is 3-1 with a 3.73 earned-run average.
He suffered an elbow injury last spring after falling over a teammate while going for a pop-up. That shelved him as a pitcher. He wore a brace for eight weeks.
He took the summer off to rest it and he developed some shoulder tightness in the fall.
But both ailments have gradually improved and he tossed eight innings of three-hit, one-run ball last weekend in beating Plymouth State 8-1 in a Little East quarterfinal series.
“My curve was the best its been since last year. And my best pitch all year has been my change-up. I’ve gotten a lot of easy outs off it,” said Henry. “I haven’t been throwing [my fastball] as hard as I used to.”
He throw both a two-seam and four-seam fastball.
In seven appearances, including six starts, he has allowed 32 hits over 31¤ innings with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks.
He has surrendered just two home runs and opposing hitters are hitting .256 against him.
He loves playing for the Huskies, saying, “it has been perfect for me. I don’t have any complaints.”
He said his team has exceptional chemistry and their long-term goal is the school’s third NCAA championship.
“But I know there’s a long way to go. Five of the top 25 teams in the country are from New England. We haven’t been playing as well as we can lately but if we can get going and play like we did early in the year, we’ll see what happens,” said the 20-year-old Henry.
“Collin is one of the best players in Division III in New England,” said USM coach Ed Flaherty.