BANGOR, Maine — For a team consisting of one senior, one junior and 13 underclassmen, Husson University’s softball team certainly didn’t play like a young, inexperienced squad.
The Eagles went 3-0 in the North Atlantic Conference tournament and won both their first NAC title and berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament, which will announce its pairings today.
“Maybe we made it look easy, but it definitely wasn’t,” said Husson coach Amanda Davey after her Eagles capped off the title with a 7-3 victory over the University of Maine-Farmington in Saturday afternoon’s title game at O’Keefe Field. “I guess the idea of coming back tomorrow to play another game didn’t appeal to us.”
The Eagles avoided Sunday’s “if necessary” game and improved their overall record to 26-14 while putting the finishing touches on their first-ever unbeaten NAC season (17-0).
Not bad for a team with five freshman and eight sophomores — nine of whom start.
“I don’t know how we do it,” said sophomore third baseman Dottie Cameron, who was named to the NAC all-tourney team. “I guess it’s just that we all have this great connection. Do you see it? We feed off each other and we all want it, so we kind of push each other.”
Husson’s primary pusher was pitcher and designated hitter Nicole Sargent.
The tourney MVP went 4-for-10 with two home runs, a double, a single, six RBIs, and three runs scored. And that was just at the plate.
In the circle, the sophomore from Sullivan pitched a five-inning shutout to earn a win and a 1-2-3 seventh to earn a save in the second game Friday.
“She definitely stepped up in the tournament,” said Davey. “She was already key for us, and she only pitched 17 innings all of last year, but she really took the ball this season.”
Saturday, she scattered eight hits — three after the first two innings — over 6¤ innings to earn another win.
“My location was good,” said Sargent, who gave up two runs in the first and one in the second. “They came here ready to hit and jumped on us early, so I knew I had to jam them and work them inside or get them with my rise and make them pop it up.”
The 17-13 Beavers jumped on Sargent early as Shannon Mitchell ripped a two-run double off the left-field fence in the first, but Husson had a quick answer with four in the bottom of the first off UMF starter Liz Bergeron of Milford.
Junior Cassie Berry of Newcastle belted a two-run homer to dead center and Megan Richard of Wilton hit a two-run double to left center to make it 4-2 Husson.
The Beavers got one back in the second with a one-out RBI double to left by senior outfielder Erin Porter of Bangor, but left the bases loaded afterward. Those stranded runners would hurt even more the next half inning as Husson plated three on a leadoff walk, a Cameron double, Megan Bradstreet’s RBI groundout, and a two-base fielding error.
Both teams’ pitching settled down from then on.
“They hit the ball hard a few times, and we did too, but ours were usually right at people and we didn’t get the timely hits they did,” said UMF first-year coach Cynthia Pratt. “I think that was the difference in this game.”
That was basically Husson’s winning formula for the entire tournament, plus a couple other key components.
“I think a lot of this whole tournament was getting off to a great start and not getting down when other teams scored first,” said Bradstreet.
In the earlier elimination game, NAC player of the year McKell Barnes showed why she was selected for the honor by going 3-for-3 with two home runs, a double, and seven RBIs and leading No. 3 UMF to an 8-4 victory over No. 2 Thomas College Saturday afternoon.
Barnes sandwiched two-run homers in the third and seventh innings between a three-run double in the fourth. Bergeron picked up the win with three innings of one-hit, scoreless relief. Kasey McPhail had three singles.
Kristy Clements had a double and two singles for the Terriers.
All-Tournament team selections included Cameron, Berry and Sargent of Husson; Porter, Bergeron and Barnes of UMF; Clements and Brittany Morin of Thomas College; and Hillary Bemis of Castleton State.
(Saturday’s championship game)
UM-Farmington (17-13) 210 000 0 — 3 8 2
Husson (26-14) 430 000 x — 7 8 2
Bergeron and Barnes; Sargent, LeBorgne (7) and Risser
(Saturday’s elimination game)
Thomas (14-18-1) 030 100 0 — 4 9 1
UM-Farmington (17-12) 002 402 x — 8 12 2
Kennedy, Cianchette (4) and Clements, Robison (2); Timmwreck, Bergeron (5) and Donnell, Flaherty (5)