Shawn Smith had a respectable freshman season last spring.
The Husson University right fielder overcame an early-season hamstring injury to hit .269 with a homer and 17 RBIs.
But the Winterport native and Hampden Academy standout has taken his game to the next level this season.
He will enter this weekend’s North Eastern Athletic Conference East Division tournament at Husson’s Winkin Complex as the Eagles’ leading hitter at .344. He also leads in hits (45), runs batted in (31) and stolen bases (15-for-15). He is one of four Eagles with a team-high two homers.
Smith is second on the team in slugging percentage (.481), on-base percentage (.429) and runs scored (30) and is tied for second in triples (2).
In addition, he is a rare sophomore captain as chosen by the players and coaches.
“Making him a captain was a great choice,” said Husson senior center fielder Tom Crews. “It is rare to have a sophomore captain but he definitely deserved it. He’s a leader on and off the field.”
“He has worked hard. He has kept the same attitude and he has been consistent. You have to respect somebody like that no matter what his age level,” said senior pitcher Ryan Arsenault.
“You could tell he was a leader even when he was a freshman,” said senior shortstop Ethan Guerette. “He doesn’t say much but when he does say something, it’s good.”
Smith said he has been honored by his captaincy.
“Coach (Jason Harvey) put his faith in me and, hopefully, I’ve done my part. I’m not that vocal but I try to play the game right,” said Smith.
The Eagles cleanup hitter said he has been really happy with his and the team’s season to date and said he has worked hard year-round to improve his hitting.
“I’ve been hitting the ball harder this year. I’ve been hitting more line drives,” said Smith, who has focused on hitting the ball to all fields.
“I learned last year that you’ve got to use all parts of the field because pitchers use all parts of the plate,” said Smith, who was primarily a pull hitter at Hampden Academy. “I went to the gym and took swings in the cages to work on my weaknesses. I’ve been able to square the ball up better.”
He feels he has been having better at-bats this season.
“I’m more aggressive swinging at good pitches rather than swinging at pitches I shouldn’t swing at,” explained Smith.
“All of his extra work (has paid off),” said Crews.
“He is always taking extra swings. He’s someone the younger guys need to look up to,” said Guerette.
Smith and the Eagles are looking forward to this weekend.
It is the first time the seniors have played the tournament on their home field after having the tournament at Castleton State (Vt.) the previous three years.
“All we’ve ever wanted was to have the tournament here,” said Arsenault. “That’s what all of us seniors had in mind this year.”
“It’s going to be a great advantage for us,” said Guerette. “Our students are still in school so we should have a lot of fans. The Castleton State fans were always rowdy and it can get into your head. Hopefully, our fans will do the same (to our opponents).”
“We finally get to host the tournament and we want to take advantage,” said Crews.
Besides Smith, the Eagles have also been paced offensively by Guerette (.331-2 homers-18 RBIs), Chris Maguire (.297-0-21) and Kyle Vanidestine (.297-2-19). Nate Adams (6-3, 2.07 earned run average) and Ryan Arsenault (6-3, 2.91) have led the pitching staff.
Top seed Husson, 24-15 overall and 12-4 in conference play, faces fourth seed UMaine-Farmington Friday at 2 p.m..
UMF has been led by Josh Garneau (.370-1-14), Jack MacVane (.288-0-7) and Matt Levine (.255-0-12) with Casey Ashey (2-4, 4.43) and Brandon Gallagher (1-5, 5.40) anchoring the mound corps.
The 6 p.m. game pits No. 2 Castleton State (18-18, 12-4) against No. 3 Thomas College of Waterville (12-23, 9-7).
Castleton State features Zak Mayo (.360-0-20), Matt Eisenhuth (.300-1-24) and Ryan Zielinski (.278-3-32) along with the one-two mound punch of Seth Harrington (4-2, 2.20) and Tyler Erickson (4-3, 3.93). Thomas has been paced by Jeff Richardson (.320-0-7), Ben Goodall (.318-0-17) and Josh Nickerson (.299-0-7) with Jake Chamblee (4-1, 2.66) and Eric Sucy (3-4, 5.23) heading up the pitching staff.
UNE field hockey coach resigns
Jane Hurt, who led the University of New England field hockey team to the program’s first-ever Commonwealth Coast Conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance, has resigned to return to her native England and pursue other professional opportunities.
Biddeford-based UNE finished with an overall record of 13-7 and a 6-2 conference record.
UNE interim athletic director Curt Smyth said in a press release that Hurt “led us to a new milestone of accomplishment” and that he will open a national search to find a replacement.
Her resignation is effective May 31.