Monday was a day of firsts for the North Atlantic Conference Tournament champion Husson University softball team.
The 27-1 Eagles, winners of 20 consecutive games, learned that time they would be the top seed for a six-team, NCAA Division III regional tournament to be played in Bangor.
Husson has never hosted a regional or been a No. 1 seed.
“To put the No. 1 seed next to your team’s name, you can’t help but be excited about it,” Husson athletics director Frank Pergolizzi said. “You’re getting a chance to compete at a pretty high level against some pretty good teams.”
Coach Diann Ramsey’s Eagles open the tourney at 10 a.m. Friday against 19-2 Endicott College of Beverly, Massachusetts, the Commonwealth Coast Conference titlist, at O’Keefe Softball Field.
That will be followed by a noon game between No. 2 seed Babson (15-1), the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference champ, and No. 5 Tufts (17-5), the New England Small College Athletic Conference winner.
Third seed Brandeis (13-1), one of seven teams to receive an at-large berth in the 48-team field, plays No. 4 Eastern Connecticut State, 30-2 and the Little East Conference winner, at 2 p.m.
The Husson-Endicott loser will play the Tufts-Babson loser in a 4 p.m. Friday elimination game.
The eventual regional champion will play May 27-June 1 in the NCAA Division III College World Series in Salem, Virginia.
“If we stay focused on our game and take it one inning at a time, I think we have a pretty good chance,” Ramsey said.
Pergolizzi said Husson previously hadn’t submitted a bid to host a regional, but the NCAA didn’t receive the number of bids it usually gets. Marie Curran-Headley, the AD at NAC school SUNY Cobleskill and a member of the NCAA Division III Softball Championship Committee, reached out to him a few weeks ago to see if Husson would submit a bid.
“Diann [Perkins] was very excited about it,” said Pergolizzi, who will serve as the tournament director.
The NCAA will cover expenses, so Husson will break even or could even make a little money. Pergolizzi has booked the five teams into four hotels.
Under COVID-19 guidelines, the NCAA will allow 50 percent capacity at the facility for each game. Pergolizzi said that is approximately 150 people.
The Eagles are ecstatic about hosting for the first time.
“It’s insane. I can’t even describe it. I never thought we would host a regional,” fifth-year senior and ace pitcher Jen Jones of Acton said.
Jones, who is working toward her doctorate in physical therapy, said this is the best team she has played on at Husson, which has earned three straight NCAA tourney bids. She has racked up a school-record 591 career strikeouts.
“We all gel so well together. If somebody or a couple of players are having an off day, we pick them up,” Jones said.
“There isn’t a player I don’t trust completely going up to bat. And it’s also a nice feeling knowing that everybody playing behind me can field the ball.”
Freshman third baseman Kenzie Dore of Holden, a former Brewer High star, was named the most valuable player in the NAC Tournament.
“It’s amazing. It’s surreal,” Dore said. “We’re excited to show how good softball is in the state and at Husson.”
Sophomore pitcher-right fielder Sydney Ames lost her freshman season to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she is excited about how this season has played out so far.
“Even though we’re stoked about it, we’re very good at separating out our emotions. Coach [Ramsey] has us doing a bunch of mental training, so we’ll be fine.”