BANGOR, Maine — Husson University center fielder Shawn Smith has finally enjoyed a healthy season.
And that has been bad news for opposing pitchers.
Smith was named the North Atlantic Conference’s Player of the Year on Thursday and it’s easy to see why.
The Winterport native and former Hampden Academy star leads the nation’s Division III hitters in triples with eight and he is ranked in the top 37 in the country in five other categories.
He is 21st in total bases (92), tied for 27th in runs batted in (41), 35th in batting average (.422), 36th in slugging percentage (.681) and tied for 37th in hits (57).
“I’m having a good year. I’ve just been seeing the ball well and trying to do my best,” said Smith. “I’ve put in a lot of work in the offseason. I’ve worked on my hitting fundamentals. I’ve done a lot of extra work hitting off the tee. That trains the eyes more than anything.”
He said it has also helped him with his timing, explaining that it has enabled him to make sure his front foot lands on the ground before he makes contact with the ball.
He leads the Eagles in homers (4) and on-base percentage (.484), he is second in doubles (7) and third in stolen bases (15). He is also tied for third in runs scored with 27.
Tri-captain Smith will lead the 23-17 Eagles, the second seed, into their 2:30 p.m. matchup against 19-18 third seed Colby-Sawyer (N.H.) in the first round of the NAC double-elimination tournament at Castleton State (Vt.) on Friday. Top seed Castleton State (26-11) will take on No. 4 Thomas College of Waterville, 15-23, to open the tourney at 11 a.m.
There will be three games on Saturday (9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m.) followed by the championship round on Sunday beginning at 10 a.m.
Smith said his health has also been pivotal in the strong season.
“This has been the first year I haven’t been banged up at all,” said Smith, who has also had hamstring issues in the past. “My right knee was swollen the whole year last season. I hurt it in the fall.
“I took some time off [after last season], got my knee better and worked hard on strengthening it,” added Smith. “And I was able to fine tune my swing.”
Husson coach Jason Harvey said Smith’s health has enabled him to have “the best season of his career.
“He has been asked to carry a big load for us. And he has done a great job,” said Harvey.
Harvey said Smith has become a more disciplined hitter.
“Even when he’s ahead in the count, he’s still looking for his pitch to drive. And he’s hitting the ball to every part of the field,” said Harvey.
The right-handed-hitting Smith has been seeing a lot of pitches on the outer half of the plate, including a host of breaking balls and off-speed pitches, and he said he has been trying to go with the pitch and hit them to right and right center.
“I think most of my extra-base hits have been to right field,” said Smith. “I’ve just basically been hitting the ball where it has been pitched.”
He downplays the fact he’s leading the nation on triples.
“I try not to pay attention to that,” said Smith. “I’m just trying to have fun and help my team win. It’s a team game and that’s what my focus is.”