Being the top seed for a tournament you are hosting would seem like an ideal situation, but there is a lot of pressure that goes along with that.
The Husson University softball team, hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history, made sure the pressure didn’t build up on Friday morning.
The Eagles erupted for nine first-inning runs en route to a 12-4 victory over Endicott College of Beverly, Massachusetts, at the O’Keefe Softball Field in Bangor.
Husson, 28-1 and winner of 21 in a row, plays the loser of Friday’s 3:30 p.m. game between third seed Brandeis (13-1) and No. 4 Eastern Connecticut State (30-2) in Saturday’s 10 a.m. contest. Endicott (19-3) faces Babson, a 1-0 loser to Tufts, at 4 p.m. Friday in an elimination game.
NCAA Division III Player of the Year finalist Kenzie Dore of Holden and Maddy Fowler each hit two-run singles in the uprising and Sydney Ames of Skowhegan posted two of her four hits and an RBI in the inning.
“To jump out early and get the first runs on the board has been our goal all season long,” Dore said. “It’s nice that we finally did it.”
All nine runs were unearned as the Gulls committed four errors.
“We were tight. That was definitely uncharacteristic of us,” Endicott coach Katie Bettencourt said.
“That’s not the team we are,” second baseman Adrianna Favreau said.
Ames’ leadoff infield single to the shortstop hole started the first-inning rally and Ames beat the throw to second by the catcher on Whitney Bess’ sacrifice bunt. Dore reached on shortstop Keelin Spencer’s fielding error to load the bases.
One out later, winning pitcher Jen Jones (13-0) fouled off five two-strike pitches from Michaela Hamill before hitting a grounder to Spencer, who threw wildly past first to allow the first two runs to score.
Olivia McCarty walked to reload the bases and Fowler poked a two-run single into right-center to make it 4-0.
Molly O’Neill came on in relief of Hamill and Katie Raymond greeted her with an opposite-field, ground-ball single down the left-field line to again load the bases.
One out later, Ames singled sharply off O’Neill’s left shin to produce a run. Bess drew a bases-loaded walk to force in another run and Dore ripped a two-run single to center. A third run scored when catcher Meghan Connor tried to throw Dore out a second after a throw to the plate from the outfield.
Spencer doubled off the fence to drive in two runs in a three-run second inning for Endicott and Spencer’s two-out RBI single in the sixth following a Windsor error made it 9-4.
The Gulls loaded the bases but Jones induced Connor to fly to Ames to right to end the threat and Husson ended the game via the eight-run rule in the bottom of the sixth when it scored three runs capped by Jones’ RBI single.
Sophomore right fielder Ames stroked four singles in her college playoff debut — there wasn’t a season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic- — and she scored three times. She was Husson’s only repeat hitter.
“It felt amazing,” Ames said of her four-hit game. “I definitely couldn’t have done it or be here without my teammates. They hype me up 24-7 and give me the confidence I have.”
Jones went the distance, allowing four hits and three earned runs with four strikeouts and five walks over six innings. She threw 107 pitches, 71 for strikes.
“It wasn’t my best game but my offense is always there behind me and (catcher Erin Bonenfant) behind the plate is a brick wall and (pitching coach Rick Roberts) on the pitching calls is unstoppable,” the graduate student said. “When I don’t have my best game, they pick me up.”
Spencer provided two hits for Endicott and Lauren Misiaszek tripled.
Hamill (6-2) absorbed the loss, lasting just one-third of an inning.
Commonwealth Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year and second team all-region pick Maria Hanchuk — who sports the nation’s second lowest earned run average at 0.29 — wasn’t available to pitch for the Gulls, according to Bettencourt.
Bettencourt did not reveal the reason.
“Husson got timely hits and we didn’t. They’re really smart and they were aggressive on the bases. They were super opportunistic. They capitalized on our mistakes,” Bettencourt said.