It has been an up-and-down year for the Husson College baseball team.
But as far as the Eagles are concerned, they are playing their best baseball right now and they’re hoping to ride the momentum of an 8-5 finish to a North Atlantic Conference tournament championship beginning Friday at Szot Park in Chicopee, Mass.
The fourth-seeded Eagles, 5-5 in NAC play and 14-21 overall, will take on top seed Castleton State (Vt.), 9-1 and 17-17, in the 2 p.m. opener with No. 2 Elms College (6-4, 12-18) and No. 3 Thomas College of Waterville (6-4, 11-6) meeting in the 6 p.m. nightcap.
The double-elimination tournament will continue with games at 10 a.m. (losers bracket), 2 p.m. (winners bracket) and 6 p.m. (teams remaining with one loss) on Saturday followed by the championship round on Sunday at noon and, if necessary, 4 p.m.
“We’re in [the tournament] and that was our goal coming into the season,” said interim coach Jason Harvey, replacing the recovering John Winkin. “We have a shot to win it. We’re the only team that beat Castleton (3-2 in 10 innings on April 5) and the other game was 1-0 [loss]. We match up well with them.”
“We’ve been playing real well lately. We’re starting to peak,” said senior first baseman-designated hitter-pitcher Andrew Patterson.
“Our pitchers have done a great job all year. They’ve kept us in games,” added Patterson. “Our hitting has been up and down but we’ve started to put hits together lately.”
“I’ve been real happy with the pitching and the defense,” said Harvey. “We need a couple of guys to break out offensively this weekend. We’re going to need some timely hits.”
The former Husson three-sport standout noted that his Eagles have done a good job of situational hitting of late.
“We’ve been hitting the ball to the right side and dropping down some bunts [to move the runners],” concurred sophomore designated hitter-first baseman Dennis Graham.
Graham has been Husson’s most consistent hitter and he could play an important role for the Eagles this weekend.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well and I’ve been focused lately,” said Graham, who is hitting .342 with two homers and 15 runs batted in.
The next three leading hitters are all freshmen: shortstop Ethan Guerette (.311-3-14), center fielder Tom Crews (.289-2-15), and 3B Chris Maguire (.281-1-17). Junior right fielder Jeff Miller is at .274-0-13 and freshman LF Logan York is at .274-0-11. York has six hits in his last 13 at-bats.
Catcher-OF Nick Arthers, a junior, leads in RBIs with 19 and he also has three homers. He is hitting .207.
The pitching staff features freshman Ryan Arsenault (2-3, 3.54), senior Keith Nason (4-5. 5.10) and senior reliever Sam Adolphsen (2-1, 2 saves, 5.70).
The Eagles were shut out in Arsenault’s three losses during which he allowed just four runs.
“Our freshmen have really stepped up for us,” said Harvey.
Nason will get the start against Castleton State, winner of eight of its last 11, and he will have to respect the Spartans’ running game.
Four of their top five hitters have at least eight stolen bases. Dan Conley (.402-1-31) has 16 steals; Brad Polcare (.395-1-26) has 18; Kyle Brooks (.317-0-21) has 13 and Chris Ragis (.364-0-27) has swiped eight bases.
Polcare was the NAC’s Player of the Week after hitting .519 in seven games and Conley was the Rookie of the Week as he hit .481.
Polcare has scored 42 runs to lead the Spartans and Conley has scored 32 times.
Ken Cook (4-3, 4.30) is likely to get the start as he three-hit Husson in outdueling Arsenault 1-0. Rob Turner (3-1, 3.32) pitched the other game.
Greg King’s Thomas College Terriers have been paced by Mike Chamard (.400-2-19), Nick Cloutier (.349-1-11), Jared Fieldsend (.310-2-16) and Tom Desjardins (.307-1-17) along with pitchers Andrew Martin (2-1, 3.05), Cory Estes (2-3, 6.23) and Kyle McPherson (1-2, 3 saves).
Elms, which split a twinbill with Thomas last week, has been led by pitchers R.J. Vassallie (2-2, 2.60) and Michael Bieber (2-1, 2.70). The hitting attack features Nick Mackowiak (.338-0-7), Mike Andrews (.323-0-20) and Justin Jacobs (.255-0-15).