BANGOR, Maine — The Thomas College softball team returned from its season-opening trip to Florida in late March with a 2-12 record.
Now the Waterville-based Terriers are bound for the NCAA Division III championships.
Sydney LeBourveau pitched her third complete game in two days and drove home the go-ahead run with a sixth-inning double as third-seeded Thomas completed a three-game sweep of the North Atlantic Conference tournament Saturday with a 2-0 win over Castleton (Vermont) University at the Winkin Complex on the campus of Husson University.
The win was the seventh straight overall for coach Terry Parlin’s club (14-21), while second-seeded Castleton concluded its season at 20-10-1.
“When we were losing before we were giving people two, three, four extra outs and you can’t do that,” said Parlin. “We haven’t given up many extra outs lately, we’ve been playing good defense, and the good thing about our offense is that we haven’t necessarily gotten a lot of hits but we’ve gotten timely hits and that’s what it takes to win these games.”
Thomas defeated Castleton twice and top seed Husson once to win its first conference championship since 2004, when the NAC did not yet have an automatic NCAA tournament bid for its champion.
“I knew we could do it the whole time, we all did,” said LeBourveau, a sophomore from Jericho, Vermont. “When we came back from Florida there was a lot of tension so we had a player discussion and after that it was great. We finally played like a team and a family.”
LeBourveau was named the tournament MVP after scattering four hits with three strikeouts and four walks to outduel Castleton’s Kayla Wood, who allowed one earned run on five hits with three strikeouts and no walks.
Thomas finally broke through against the Spartans’ right-hander in the bottom of the sixth.
Courtney Veilleux barely beat out a bunt toward first base for a leadoff single, then was sacrificed to second by Korrie Laren. She scored the game’s first run when LeBourveau blasted a double to the left-center field gap.
“I was patient, I wasn’t trying to hit a home run, so I was able to think about my mechanics and then the ball came in and I saw it and hit it,” said LeBourveau.
LeBourveau scored from second after an errant throw on Kayla Bess’ two-out grounder to shortstop.
Castleton didn’t go quietly in the top of the seventh as LeBourveau issued a leadoff walk to Karli Theberge of Hermon and McKinlee Carpenter singled up the middle to give the Spartans runners on first and second with nobody out.
LeBourveau struck out Briley Blackbird, but No. 9 hitter Sami Carlo slapped a single over second base to load the bases.
LeBourveau forced out Theberge at home on Timi Carone’s comebacker to the mound for the second out, then got Sarah Baker on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop to clinch the title.
“I was really stressed, I won’t lie about that,” said LeBourveau. “I had to force myself to breathe and to basically pretend there were no runners on and then let our team do what we do.”