Jake Gauvin has done most of his pitching for the Husson University baseball team in small doses this spring — his 21 appearances out of the Eagles’ bullpen have consumed all of 25 1/3 innings.
But those numbers alone don’t measure the meaning of those moments.
The junior righthander from Bucksport entered Sunday’s North Atlantic Conference championship-round game against Thomas College of Waterville with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the seventh inning and Husson clinging to a two-run lead.
Three pitches later, the Eagles were back in their dugout after Gauvin induced Dominic Esposito to hit a rally-killing comebacker to the mound, and Husson went on to a 3-1 victory at the Winkin Sports Complex that clinched its first NAC tournament championship since 2013.
“Since freshman year I’ve been coming into some pretty tight spots,” Gauvin said. “I try to pretend it’s just another day and throw the ball like I always do. That’s where my mindset is.
“I live for these moments. I’m just happy we had a chance and I’m glad to be in that situation because nine times out of 10 I’ll get it for you.”
Gauvin and closer Nolan Dousa combined to retire all seven batters they faced, with Dousa working a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his fifth save of the season as Husson improved to 26-14 with its 10th straight victory.
Husson will host City University of New York Athletic Conference champion Baruch College (15-17) in best-of-three series next Friday and Saturday for an automatic bid to NCAA Division III Tournament.
“This is where we’ve been trying to get to all season, and in the last two or three weeks it’s finally just clicked,” said Husson junior center fielder David LeBlanc, named tournament MVP after going 5-for-13 with four RBIs and three runs scored during his team’s 3-0 tournament run.
“We’re excited to show up at the field and it shows when we start playing.”
That showing has been most pronounced on the mound, where Husson allowed just one earned run over the weekend and did not yield an earned run during its final 23 innings of play.
“At the beginning of the year we said pitching, defense and timely hitting is really who we are, and if we were going to get where we wanted to be that’s what we had to do,” said Husson coach Jason Harvey, who tied John Kolasinski for most coaching victories in program history with 283. “The pitching was phenomenal, and it’s been all of these guys.”
Senior righthander Ryan Allender (4-3) of Rockland fell behind 1-0 in the top of the first when Thomas leadoff batter Alexander Miller doubled to left and scored on back-to-back groundouts — with Husson’s Nick Guerrette making a diving stop on the RBI-grounder by Roberto Duran.
Husson got that run back in the bottom of the inning when LeBlanc doubled to the left-center field fence with two outs and scored on Ethan Stoddard’s triple to straightaway center.
Allender escaped a two-on, nobody-out threat in the second, then endured the warmest weather so far this spring to hold Thomas without another run through six innings.
He pitched with a lead for much of the outing after Husson scored two unearned runs off Thomas starter Cody Cousins (1-4) in the bottom of the third.
Conor Maguire singled to center and came around to score the go-ahead run when Kobe Rogerson’s bunt was thrown down the right-field line by Thomas catcher Connor Rittenhouse.
Rogerson reached third base on the play and scored to make it 3-1 on LeBlanc’s single to left.
“(Cousins) got ahead of me with the first strike but he left one inside and I got the barrel to it,” LeBlanc said.
Sophomore righty Ben Bernier relieved Allender in the seventh, and singles by Ryan Kappelmann and Rittenhouse around a walk to Duran loaded the bases with two outs before Gauvin quashed the comeback bid.
“That’s Jake’s role,” Harvey said. “He’s the guy coming out of the pen that we count on in those situations, and he thrives on that. He’s the kind of kid who wants the ball in that situation, he wants to be in those pressure spots.
“His ability to mix speeds and locate his slider has been great all year, and it couldn’t happen to a better kid.”
On Saturday, Jesse Colford pitched a six-hit, complete-game shutout as Husson University advanced to the championship round with a 6-0 victory over No. 2 Northern Vermont-Lyndon.
Thomas beat No. 4 UMaine-Farmington in Saturday’s opener and then edged NV-Lyndon 3-2 in the day’s second elimination game.
Colford (7-2) struck out seven, walked one and hit two batters while securing his seventh straight pitching victory. The junior righthander from Bangor threw 89 strikes among his 131 pitches.
Rogerson paced Husson’s eight-hit attack with a double, two singles and two runs scored while Stoddard singled twice and scored two runs.
Rogerson singled and scored on Luke Covey’s sacrifice fly to give Husson a 1-0 fourth-inning lead Stoddard singled in the seventh and scored on a single by Michael Schneider to make it 2-0.
The Eagles broke the game open in the eighth, with LeBlanc hitting a two-run triple and Alex Chapman and Stoddard each contributing RBI singles.
Ben Rollins of Lincolnville doubled and singled for NV-Lyndon.
In Saturday’s first game, Esposito singled home two runs and Adam Berger also singled home a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to snap a 3-3 tie and lift Thomas past UMF.
Quinn Stebbins pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief to earn the win.
Tyler Gee doubled and singled with an RBI for Thomas while Miller singled twice.
Chase Malloy and Hunter LaBossiere each singled twice and tripled for UMF.
In the nightcap, Thomas scratched out three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning aided by an error, a wild pitch and Miller’s RBI single, and pitchers Ryan Scepansky and Darren Kelly made them stand up to oust Northern Vermont-Lyndon.
Scepansky (3-3) allowed two runs on eight hits through 8 2/3 innings before Kelly got the final out in the top of the ninth for his first save.
NV-Lyndon outhit Thomas 8-5, with Rollins pacing NV-Lyndon with a double, single and two walks.