The Husson University softball team will be facing a familiar foe on Thursday when the Eagles travel to the Dayna A. Bazar Softball Complex in Providence, R.I., for the NCAA Division III regional tournament at Rhode Island College.
The 25-17 Eagles are the eighth seed and will take on top seed and defending regional champ Eastern Connecticut State, 30-4, to open the tourney at 10 a.m.
The two teams met in the opening around a year ago and Eastern Connecticut State won 8-0 in five innings.
The Warriors, ranked 12th in the country and No. 1 in New England, are 23-1 since going 7-3 on their Florida spring trip.
In the other first-round games in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament, No. 4 Rhode Island College (33-11) will face No. 5 Worcester State (28-9) at noon, No. 3 Endicott (35-6) will face the sixth-seeded Monks from St. Joseph’s College in Standish (35-8) at 2 p.m. and No. 2 Coast Guard Academy (36-2) will take on No. 7 Lesley (29-6) at 4 p.m.
“They’re a great team, but there’s always a little bit of comfort when you know your opponent,” said Husson coach Amanda Davey, who has led her Eagles to three straight North Atlantic Conference titles and NCAA Division III Tournament berths.
“We have kids with a lot of experience who know what to expect and that will help us,” said Davey, whose Eagles will be looking for their first win in an NCAA tournament.
She said the Warriors have a dominant pitcher in Molly Rathbun (19-0, 0.70 ERA, 208 strikeouts in 140 innings) who three-hit Husson with 10 strikeouts over five innings last season.
“She has a rise ball and she never throws it for a strike (but hitters swing at it). We can’t swing at it,” said Davey.