Jesse Colford has little to show for a solid spring on the mound.
The sophomore right-hander from Bangor and ace of the Husson University baseball pitching staff has a more-than-respectable 3.18 earned run average over five starts covering 28 1/3 innings.
He’s been even better most recently, yielding one earned run in 13 1/3 innings in his last two starts with 12 strikeouts and one walk.
Yet those outings produced two North Atlantic Conference losses — a 2-0 defeat to New England College and a 2-1 decision at Colby-Sawyer — leaving Colford still in search of his first victory of the season.
“Baseball’s such a funny game where you can dominate in two aspects of it but if you don’t come up with that one big hit or you don’t come up with that one big play defensively it can turn a good outing into a loss for you pretty quickly,” said Husson coach Jason Harvey.
“Jesse’s thrown the ball extremely well in three of his last four starts. We just can’t scrap out a run for him.”
While Husson boasts one of the deeper pitching staffs in the conference — top starters Colford, Cody Collins and Austin Smith all have ERAs under 3.40 — the 11-14 Eagles rank sixth in the seven-team NAC with a .222 team batting average and have 11 losses when they scored two or fewer runs.
Finding a way out of the season-long hitting slump will be particularly important as Husson faces consecutive conference doubleheaders on the road Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.
First comes a makeup twinbill at Colby-Sawyer in New London, New Hampshire, then back-to-back doubleheaders at four-time defending NAC champion Castleton (Vermont) University and two more games at Thomas College of Waterville before the Eagles close out their NAC regular-season slate at home against Lyndon (Vermont) State on April 28 and 29.
“We’re looking at a big stretch here where if we put together some good at-bats we could be in a really good position by the middle of next week,” said Harvey, who earned his 250th career victory at Husson with an 11-10 win over New England College on April 8.
He is 254-196 in 11 years as the Eagles’ leader.
Castleton leads the conference standings at 10-2, while Lyndon State (5-1), New England College (9-4) and Husson (7-5) are all in position to qualify for the four-team conference tournament, which will be hosted by the top-seeded team in early May.
“I would say this year more than any it’s wide open. Obviously Castleton’s won it the last four years and I still think they’re one of the teams to beat,” said Harvey. “But we’re right in the thick of it. Everyone’s kind of beaten each other at least once so I think it opens the door for a good conference tournament.”
Harvey’s milestone coaching victory reflected Husson’s offensive potential as the Eagles pounded out 14 hits and won with three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
But consistency at the plate has been hard to find.
“We haven’t played in many ‘hitting days,’” said Harvey. “We’ve been battling with 30-degree temperatures for the last three weeks, and I’m not one to make excuses but obviously it’s very tough on the hitting side to get going and stay loose and really put some good at-bats together when it’s that cold.”
Sophomore Nick Guerrette of Hermon leads Husson with a .329 batting average, but he’s the only regular above .300. Juniors Alex Chapman (.274, 10 stolen bases, 12 RBI) and Luke Covey (team-leading 15 RBI) are other offensive catalysts for the Eagles.
“This group has got some ability to hit,” Harvey said. “We’ve just got to keep plugging away and hopefully we’ll get those bats hot in the next couple of weeks as we get to the conference tournament.”
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