BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine softball team had lost three straight and 16 of its previous 18 games.
On Tuesday, the Black Bears enjoyed a taste of winning while celebrating the birthday of a key senior.
Ashley Kelley of Hermon stymied Husson University on three hits over five innings as UMaine posted a 9-0 victory at O’Keefe Field in a game shortened by the eight-run rule.
Kelley (3-10) struck out nine and did not walk a batter, keeping the Eagles off balance with a repertoire that featured plenty of “hard stuff.”
“I felt good out there,” said Kelley, who turned 22 Tuesday. “My pitches were moving good and I was getting calls and they were looking at a lot of pitches, so I definitely took advantage of that.”
The former Hermon High School star held Husson hitless until lefthanded-hitting Heidi Shaw pulled a hanging pitch into right field with one out in the fourth inning.
UMaine (7-22), which dropped three America East games at Albany last weekend, needed a boost, according to first-year coach Lynn Coutts.
“We needed a little bit of confidence,” said Coutts, who quickly praised coach Amanda Bourgoin’s Husson squad (10-7).
“Amanda has done a great job with them and they’re very good,” she added.
The Bears seized the upper hand immediately against Eagles starter Kody Lyon. EmJ Fogel grounded a leadoff single through the middle and rode home one out later on a line-drive home run to left off the bat of Jennifer Eberhardt.
“We haven’t given her much support like today,” Coutts said. “That makes a difference. You’re much more calm as a pitcher when you get some support.”
Fogel led UMaine with three singles and three runs scored. The Bears scored in every inning.
“Today was really a day to build our confidence and become more together as a team,” Fogel said.
“I was excited she [Eberhardt] got one over [the fence] and made it easier for us,” she added.
UMaine made it 5-0 with three runs in the second, including a one-out home run to center field, on a 3-0 pitch, by Margaret Hilton. Jessica Burk and Fogel each singled and both scored on an error.
UMaine scored a single run in the third without benefit of a hit, tallied two on Jean Stevens’ two-out, two-run double in the fourth and added on in the fifth when Nikki Byron singled and later scored on Fogel’s single through the right side.
Husson, which also received singles from Victoria Overlock and Aimee Mortensen, complicated things for itself. The Eagles committed four errors that led to five unearned runs.
“We didn’t play our game today,” said Bourgoin, who recently celebrated the birth of her first child, son Brendan. “They had nine runs on eight hits. We had four errors. We just played sloppy. We’re going to use it to build on.”
Bourgoin’s husband, Kevin, is the offensive coordinator for the UMaine football team.
Maine returns to league action at noon Saturday when it hosts Boston University for a doubleheader while Castleton State will visit Husson at 3 p.m. Friday for a North Atlantic Conference twinbill.