This hasn’t been a vintage year for University of Southern Maine baseball.
Blame youth if you want. The Huskies have only four seniors on their roster. At times, they’ve featured almost that many freshmen in their starting lineup.
Ascribe those struggles to the law of averages if you please. After a 36-win season and Little East Conference championship last spring and a quarter-century of excellence preceding it, maybe that Southern Maine machine was due for a reboot.
Just don’t point the finger at Mike Eaton. Few hitters in New England NCAA Division III baseball have been productive as Eaton, a fourth-year junior from Sabattus.
Eaton leads Southern Maine in four major offensive categories: Batting average (.432); runs scored (49); hits (64); and stolen bases (12). He’s also second on the team in doubles (12), home runs (5) and RBIs (41).
“I’ve just been getting good pitches to hit,” said Eaton, who has made a giant leap at the plate during each of his three seasons in Gorham.
After sitting out the 2007 season due to injury, Eaton batted .304 as a freshman. His average jumped to .355 last season to go with six home runs and 48 RBIs.
That production is no surprise to anyone who followed Eaton’s undergraduate career, when he contributed heavily to a Class B state championship at Oak Hill High School and an American Legion state title for Monmouth.
“I thought having all that experience would make the transition a lot easier, but college baseball is a lot different,” Eaton said. “It’s a lot tougher. There are a lot of better players. For me, it was good being able to sit out a year and just watch and learn. I spent every day in the weight room. I watched how the guys ahead of me went about their business.”
Eaton has starred at Southern Maine as both a slugger and a relief pitcher, although the mound role has decreased significantly this season.
He is 2-2 in 11 appearances with 12 strikeouts in just over 13 innings of work. Eaton accumulated an 8-0 mark with four saves and an ERA of just over 2.00 through his first two years.
Southern Maine is a quiet 19-17-1 after wins this week over Bowdoin and Bates.
The Huskies host Eastern Connecticut State at noon today in a rescheduled doubleheader that will determine their seeding in the Little East tournament later this week.
USM has won at least 22 games every year since 1985, encompassing coach Ed Flaherty’s entire tenure at the school.
Another local player has been in the mix for the Huskies. Sophomore outfielder Dave Ricker of Winthrop is hitting .311 with one home run, 17 RBIs and six steals.
SOMETHING IN THE WATER?
The Oak Hill/Monmouth Legion pipeline gave another prominent Maine D3 program the best hitter in its lineup, as well.
Ethan Guerette shone as leadoff hitter and shortstop for Husson University.
Guerette started 42 of the Eagles’ 43 games, topping the team with a .386 average, 59 hits, 12 doubles, four triples and 24 stolen bases in 26 attempts. He also was second in runs scored and RBIs.
Husson was eliminated from the NEAC East Division playoffs May 2 with a 6-5 loss to Castleton in 11 innings.
HE’S NO. 1
Ben Landry of Lewiston has been ranked as the nation’s leading scorer in Division III men’s lacrosse for the last three weeks.
Landry, a sophomore attacker for Husson, scored a whopping 80 goals this season, an average of 4.44 per game. He also served up 16 assists for a team-high 96 points.
Castleton held Landry to two goals in a 17-5 victory Wednesday, one that knocked Husson out of the North Atlantic Conference tournament.
Landry was named Saturday to the NAC all-tournament team.
Nick Brown of Sabattus (Oak Hill) completed his second season at Husson ranked fifth on the team with 19 goals and 32 points.
Mallory Long of Lewiston concluded her career for University of New England women’s lacrosse with a hat trick in Wednersday’s 13-12, double-overtime loss to Roger Williams. It was a semifinal game in the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament.
Long leaves the Nor’easters fourth all-time in assists and total points.