The defending North Atlantic Conference champion Husson University softball team had to adjust to a new head coach this spring. Diann Ramsey took over after four-year coach Terren (Hall) Allen left to take the job at Colby College in Waterville.
The Eagles haven’t missed a beat.
Husson takes a 21-9 record (11-1 NAC) into Friday’s NAC first-round game against the University of Maine at Presque Isle (15-13, 7-5) at Colby College in Waterville.
The Eagles shared the NAC regular-season title with Waterville’s Thomas College (22-8, 11-1 NAC), but Thomas earned the top seed via a tiebreaker involving head-to-head results against common opponents.
Thomas faces the University of Maine at Farmington (14-17, 6-6 NAC) in the tourney opener. Game times have not been announced.
Husson senior center fielder Oliva Smith of Calais said the coaching transition couldn’t have gone any smoother. Team members met the candidates, and Ramsey showed up with a comprehensive binder outlining her practice drills and coaching philosophy.
“She was ready to go, and after we passed around the binder, we unanimously agreed that she was the one,” Smith said.
“We love her. She’s awesome. She’s a great communicator,” Smith said.
Junior Jen Jones of Acton, the 2018 NAC Pitcher of the Year and Tournament Most Valuable Player, said Ramsey had a different style, but it fits perfectly with the team dynamic.
Ramsey, an Otisfield native who attended Oxford Hills High School of South Paris, played softball and field hockey at Husson.
“[The players have made it] an easy transition for me with their willingness to adjust,” she said.
Smith said the 2019 team is better than last year’s squad.
“The freshmen have made our team that much deeper. They have contributed right away,” Smith said. “And last year’s sophomores are juniors now, and they have [NCAA] Regional experience.”
Husson lost to 12th-ranked host Williams College 6-0 in the 2018 NCAA Division III Regional opener, then dropped a 6-5, 11-inning elimination game to Western New England.
Freshmen who have made an impact include left fielder Whitney Bess of Madison, who is hitting .415 with 18 runs batted in and a team-leading 29 runs scored; shortstop Brooklynn Scott of Hampden (.355 average); and second baseman Katie Windsor of Hermon (.516).
“We’re very deep,” Ramsey said. “I have a lot of people I can put in various positions and be extremely confident they can get the job done.”
Jones and Smith have been the catalysts.
Jones is 10-5 in the circle with a 1.41 earned run average and 114 strikeouts in 104 innings. She has also played in the outfield and is batting .465 (2 home runs, 10 doubles, 26 RBI). Jones had only 23 at-bats last season.
“It keeps my involved in the game more. It takes my mind of pitching, which can be healthy sometimes,” Jones said.
Smith is hitting .404 and leads the team in homers (6), doubles (12), RBI (28) and stolen bases (6).
Smith had been worried about trying to follow up a productive junior year (.483, 5 HR, 33 RBI).
“I have never had this much fun. And it’s contagious,” Smith said.
Husson’s other offensive standouts include 2B Bri Brochu of Pittston (.403-0-11), and first basemen Tamara Aunchman (.329-3-21) and Morgan Coleman of Acton (.344-1-18). Scarborough shortstop Chloe Gorey (.314) and Bangor catcher Kylie Cunningham (.304) have also contributed.
“There’s not a weak spot in our lineup,” said Ramsey, whose team is hitting .363.
Augusta senior Arika Brochu (8-2, 2.01 ERA) and freshman Alyssa Prest (3-2, 4.79) have pitched valuable innings to lighten the load for Jones.
“I feel a lot fresher this year,” Jones said.