Husson University softball coach Amanda Davey never saw Courtney Hill play softball at Calais High School.
But Davey told an interested Hill she could try out for the team.
Hill was a righthanded hitter, although she occasionally bunted from the left side during her senior year at Calais.
Once Davey saw her hit during fall practice, Hill’s career as a righthanded hitter was over.
“(Assistant coach) Lee Speronis told me she was a very good hitter in high school. I said, ‘I don’t care. She’s going to become a lefthanded slapper,” laughed Davey.
Hill is lightning-quick and Davey wanted to take full advantage of Hill’s speed by switching her to the other side of the plate, which is a few steps closer to first, and teaching her to run up on the pitch and slap it.
“Her average time from home to first is 2.7 seconds,” pointed out Davey.
It is 60 feet between bases in softball.
The experiment has paid huge dividends.
Hill was the designated hitter and an infielder as a freshman last season and responded by hitting .323 and scoring 25 runs. She also stole 15 bases and had a team-high 15 walks. Her on-base percentage was .462. She was named to the North Atlantic Conference All-Tournament team.
This season, Husson’s leadoff hitter has already stolen 19 bases in 21 attempts through 20 games and she leads the team in runs (20) and hits (26). She is hitting .356 and has also driven in six runs.
Davey considers her one of the team’s offensive catalysts.
As a base-stealer, Hill focuses on the pitcher’s release. Runners can’t leave the bag until the pitch leaves the pitcher’s hand.
“And I’ll try to take advantage if they don’t pay attention to me,” said Hill.
Davey said in addition to her speed, Hill has excellent baserunning instincts.
Hill, a business major, said she has been really happy with her season to date and would love to steal at least 30 bases.
She had two bunt singles and scored a run in Tuesday’s 10-2 six-inning loss to Division I Maine.
“That will help my confidence,” said Hill, a second baseman by trade, who has become the starting right fielder.
Hill admitted becoming a lefthanded slap hitter required an adjustment.
“(When you run up toward the pitcher), your eye levels change,” explained Hill. “But I’ve gotten used to it.”
She said she got frustrated at times last year.
“I struck out a lot. I swung at too many high pitches,” said Hill.
Davey said Hill scans the field between pitches to see where the fielders are playing.
“When we played Maine, I tried to keep the ball away from (third baseman) Terren Hall,” said Hill, whose two bunts were up the first-base line.
If she isn’t bunting, she’s slapping the ball on the ground to capitalize on her speed.
Davey said Hill’s stats are a little misleading because she also reaches on errors.
“She puts pressure on the defense,” said Davey, who called her a hard worker.
Hill was a three-sport standout at Calais and always wanted to attend Husson.
“We used to come to basketball team camp there every summer,” said Hill, who added she is getting more comfortable in right field.
“I played for an Under-18 team last summer and we had a young team so I had to play shortstop. But my dad (John) was an assistant and worked with me (on my outfield play),” said Hill, who is hoping to lead Husson to a third straight NAC title.
Saint Joseph’s Smyth wins No. 300
Jamie Smyth, the softball coach at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, recently earned the 300th victory of his collegiate coaching career.
Smyth reached the milestone Saturday by virtue of the Monks’ 5-4, extra-inning win oer Rivier College. He now has a career record of 303-232 (.566) in 13-plus seasons.
That includes a home mark of 125-40 (.758).
Smyth is the fourth Saint Joseph’s coach to reach 300 victories, joining Rick Simonds (504, men’s basketball and softball), Will Sanborn (485, baseball) and Mike McDevitt (436, women’s basketball and volleyball).
Smyth, a former Monks baseball player, took over the softball program in 1998. He has led the team to nine 20-win seasons, three conference titles and six coach of the year honors.
Monks’ Leverone breaks career RBIs mark
Emily Leverone of Saint Joseph’s has established a new school record for career runs batted in.
The junior center fielder from Hampton, N.H., knocked in six runs in the Monks’ softball doubleheader against Johnson & Wales on Sunday. The effort pushed Leverone’s career RBI total to 137 in 107 games covering two-plus seasons.
Leverone broke the previous record of 132 set by Lisa Pichaske (Class of 1998). She played 170 career games. Leverone is a two-time, All-Great Northeast Athletic Conference first-team choice.
She also owns Saint Joseph’s career marks for home runs (20) and slugging percentage (.829). Leverone also holds several single-season offensive records.