Bangor, ME - The Husson University softball team clinched its seventh consecutive North Atlantic Conference regular season title with a doubleheader sweep of the Thomas College Terriers on Senior Day at O'Keefe Field.
Husson improves to 23-9 for the season (11-2 NAC) with the wins, and they also earned the right to host this year's NAC playoff tournament which will start next Friday, May 2. Thomas falls to 12-14-1 with the losses (5-6-1 NAC).
Husson coach Kristie Hawkins and the rest of the team honored the club's two seniors, Amanda Ryan (Brewer, ME) and Christine Connors (Brookline, NH) in a ceremony between games. Those two would each make considerable contributions in the day's games.
Pitching and defense were the main keys for the Eagles in the two contests, as Ryan (Brewer, ME) and Kayla Merrill (Bethel, ME) combined to give up just one run and 12 hits on the day.
Husson right-hander Amanda Ryan was in control of game one from the get-go, retiring the first six batters she faced. She would pick up her ninth win of the season, throwing a complete game four-hitter with five strikeouts and one walk while allowing an earned run.
The Eagles got all the offense they would need in the second inning, as they put together three runs on four hits.
Casey Lopes (New Bedford, MA) started the frame off with a single, and she would come in to score two batters later when Haley Spiers (Rochester, NH) brought her home with a double. Spiers would move to third on a base-hit by Sarah Babin (Brewer, ME), and eventually come home on an RBI single by Nicole Andrade (New Bedford, MA). Babin would make it 3-0 when she scored on a fielder's choice by Kayla Merrill to give Husson a comfortable advantage that they would not relinquish.
The Eagles added some insurance runs in later innings, as Sami Schultz (Hermon, ME) knocked an RBI double that plated Breanna Martin (Oxford, ME) in the fifth and Connors roped a pinch-hit single and scored an unearned run in the sixth.
Taylor Bergeron led the Terriers with two hits and a run scored in game one.
Dominant pitching would be the story again in game two for the Eagles, as Kayla Merrill notched her 11th victory of the season with a shutout. She scattered eight hits over seven innings, striking out four and walking none. Merrill also tallied the 100th strikeout of her career at Husson with a fifth inning K.
The Eagles used some small-ball to manufacture a run in the first inning, as Kayla Merrill led off with a walk, got moved to second on an Allie Hill (Calais, ME) sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a groundout by Lyndsay Merrill (Bethel, ME), and came home on a Martin RBI single.
Husson would squander an opportunity by leaving the bases loaded in the second, but they would increase their lead in the third when Chelsea Brennan (Woonsocket, RI) cracked a two-run home run to center field to make it 3-0.
The Eagles would add a tally in the fourth when Hill chased Spiers home with a run-scoring single, and they would get one in the sixth as well when Connors rocked a pinch-hit solo homer to make it 5-0.
Ashlee Quirrion paced Thomas with a pair of singles in game two.
"This was just what we needed to end conference play and send us into playoffs," Hawkins said after the game.
"The pitchers came out strong and combined with the defense for two very solid games. We're anxious for the playoffs and we hope to see some great wins like the ones today," she added.
The Eagles now have a full week to prepare for an upcoming playoff run. They will look to make it a six-peat, as they have won each of the last five NAC championships.