Last spring the Husson University baseball team stumbled late in the season and failed to qualify for the North Atlantic Conference tournament.
Memories of that collapse — when the Eagles lost nine of their final 12 games overall and eight of their last 10 NAC contests — have driven coach Jason Harvey’s club this spring. On Monday, the team cashed in on that motivation.
A 15-7, 10-0 doubleheader sweep of the University of Maine at Presque Isle not only marked Husson’s sixth and seventh consecutive victories, but secured the No. 1 seed for the four-team NAC tournament that begins Friday.
“Building off last year when we didn’t even make the tournament and now coming in as No. 1 and hosting it is a huge jump,” said Husson senior outfielder Conor Maguire of Ellsworth, the team’s leadoff hitter.
The clinching victories also ended a considerable home-field tournament drought for Husson, as the Eagles (23-14 overall, 12-4 NAC) will host the double-elimination conference tourney at the Winkin Sports Complex on the Bangor campus for the first time since 2011.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Harvey, now 280-220 during his 12 seasons coaching in his 500th game with Husson on Monday. “Obviously we’ve had some decent runs and this year we’ve put ourselves in a position here at the end to do what we set out to do.
“One of our goals was to host it, and the second goal was to obviously to win it, so we’ve got one down and one to go.”
Husson scored 44 runs on 51 hits during its four-game series sweep of UMPI (1-31, 0-16 NAC), the last-place team in its first year of NAC play. Husson won Sunday’s twinbill 8-6 and 11-0.
“This series came at a good time for us,” Harvey said. “They played us tough in Game 1 and put us in a close game that will help us down the road, and then in Games 2, 3 and 4 we got really got things going offensively, some guys really saw the ball well and we got some good pitching, which are all big as we head into the conference tournament.”
Such offensive might represents the biggest difference between this year’s postseason momentum and last spring’s frustrating finish.
Husson boasts a .284 team batting average this year compared to .219 in 2018.
“We’re hitting substantially better than last year and it’s taken a lot of pressure off the pitching,” Maguire said. “Everything’s just come together that much easier.”
Husson faces No. 4 UMaine-Farmington (12-21, 7-9 NAC), while No. 2 Northern Vermont-Lyndon (20-19, 11-5) plays No. 3 Thomas College of Waterville (12-22, 10-6) in the first two games of Friday’s three-game day at times to be determined.
Two games are scheduled Saturday with either one or two games Sunday to determine the NAC champion.
“It’s only goal one of two and goal two comes this weekend when we take the rest of it home,” Husson senior first baseman Alex Chapman said.
The NAC champion will advance to host the City University of New York Athletic Conference tournament winner in a best-of-three series May 9-10 for an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III championships.