A lot of guys have been pitching in for the Husson University baseball team this spring.
Twenty different pitchers have seen game action, helping the Eagles compile an 18-2 North Atlantic Conference record good for the top seed in the league’s best-of-three East division finals against No. 2 Thomas College of Waterville.
The series at the Winkin Complex on Husson’s Bangor campus begins with a noon doubleheader Friday, with an if-necessary game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The winner will host the victor of the West division finals between No. 1 SUNY Cobleskill (12-7, 10-4 NAC) and No. 2 SUNY Poly (9-10, 8-7) for the NAC championship. That best-of-three series is tentatively set for May 21-22.
The NAC champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament that begins May 27.
Husson enters the NAC East finals 18-6 overall, backed by the league’s top pitching staff with a 3.10 earned run average and just 165 hits allowed in 183 innings.
Eleven pitchers have earned at least one victory each for coach Chris Morris’ club this spring, and the same number has seen mound duty in at least five games.
Senior Cam Graham of Houlton (3-1, 1.66 ERA) has pitched a team-leading 21 2/3 innings, but nine pitchers have started at least one game and eight have at least 11 2/3 innings of work to their credit.
It’s been both a starting rotation and bullpen by committee.
“We really believe the more arms the better at Husson,” said Morris, who debuted as Husson’s head coach in 2020 when he guided the Eagles for 10 games in Florida before the season was shut down due to COVID-19.
“We want kids to pitch, and there certainly are times when kids could probably go another couple of innings, but that’s also a chance for another guy to come in and have the opportunity to be successful at it.”
Morris said with the possibility of playing 18 innings in one day, having many contributors on the mound makes the task easier.
The Eagles have not yet had a complete-game pitching performance this spring, but the multi-pitcher format has worked because of the depth of the staff and preparation designed to provide pitchers the best chance to succeed.
“We do a great job with our scouting reports and detailing what kids can do what, and being able to maximize that potential gives each of our kids an opportunity to pitch,” Morris said. “We’ve had so many guys step up in so many different roles throughout the spring that it’s been exciting from a coaching staff standpoint to see so many guys pitch well.”
Graham and freshman pitcher Chris Naylor (3-0, 0.45 ERA) lead the staff in victories, while graduate student Jesse Colford Bangor (1-1, 2.84 ERA) has a team-high nine appearances. Freshmen Ryan Robb and Jackson Thayer have combined for five saves.
“There’s a lot of really fun pieces for us as a coaching staff to be able to utilize throughout a series and be able to play matchups throughout a game,” Morris said.
The Husson pitching staff will be challenged by the NAC’s top-hitting lineup as Thomas takes a conference-leading .310 team batting average into the series.
Coach Greg King’s Terriers (12-10 overall, 11-8 NAC) earned the No. 2 East seed via a tiebreaker over Northern Vermont-Lyndon, which lost three of its five regular-season games against Thomas in last week’s series to end the regular season.
Husson won its first 15 NAC games before losing to Thomas 6-1 in the first game of their five-game series on April 29.
Husson went on to win three of its five contests against the Terriers.
“This should be a fun series,” Morris said. “I think it’s two good teams that are on the rise. I think we’re both pretty young, too, so it should be a good little matchup here for the next few years.”