It wasn’t a mere batch of consecutive victories. It was a bona fide winning streak. of 19 games It lasted nearly a month, and set the tone for the rest of the season for the University of Southern Maine baseball team.

“We showed in that 19-game winning streak that we could come together as a group and rattle off that many wins in a row,” senior catcher Matt Verrier said.

The Huskies are only at three consecutive wins now, but they’ve won 17 of their past 19 games, including a run through the Little East Championship Tournament and the Division III Regional Championships.

That leads USM to Friday’s 11 a.m. game with Millsaps College in the NCAA Division III National Finals in Appleton, Wisconsin.

“All the hard work we’ve put in has paid off,” said Verrier. “There’s just one more tournament and hopefully, we can accomplish our dreams.”

Verrier and USM teammate Ryan Yates, also a senior, played high school baseball together at Oxford Hills high school, and have helped the Huskies to their first Division III regional championship since 2001, and seventh since 1989.

USM is 42-8 now advances the eight-team double-elimination national finals.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Yates said. “You always think about it every year. It’s the ultimate goal. Losing only two or three games throughout the season, you realize that this is an actual possibility.”

The Huskies had high hopes for this season. They entered the spring atop the preseason coaches poll in the LEC and had a veteran club with great expectations.

“I knew we were going to be really good this year,” Yates said. “We had good hitting. Our pitching was coming along. I knew we were going to be good, but you never know what’s going to happen with injuries. About halfway through the season, we really started realizing that we had a really good team here.”

Both Verrier and Yates played a part in that evolution. The two Oxford Hills products were looking to increase their roles and improve upon last season.

Verrier earned all-region team honors. He is hitting .304 (48-for-158) with 13 doubles, three home runs, one triple, and 44 RBI while handling the Huskies’ pitching staff that has fashioned a 3.16 ERA and thrown seven shutouts this season.

“I didn’t hit the way I wanted to last year with the change in schools and whatnot,” said Verrier, who transferred to USM from UMaine last year. “I kind of pressed a little bit. This year, I knew what my role was. We have a lot of good hitters here. I knew I’d be somewhere in the back of the lineup. So I knew I’d have chances to drive in runs because there’s always guys getting on base with our team.”

Verrier says his work during the summer and his extra level of experience paid off this season. It has helped him produce offensively and helped make him a leader behind the plate.

“It’s easier for me to read things now and know what a guy has and know where he needs to throw the ball,” said Verrier.

Yates had just six appearances last year and five starts, going 2-3. His goal was to get into the starting rotation on a regular basis. He had eight starts this year and has gone 6-1 with a 3.94 earned run average. He says work in the offseason and a little tweaking has made a difference.

“It really helped me keep the ball lower in the zone,” said Yates. “That helped my other pitches. I’m keeping it low. My curveball is tighter and my changeup is moving more.”

With one of the biggest games of their lives Friday morning, the Huskies are trying to maintain an even keel. That’s something veteran coach Ed Flaherty has emphasized regularly.

“You try not to change anything,” Yates said. “You try to keep everything the same and try to play one game at a time. You start thinking ahead  and you forget about the games your about to play and that’s not good. You have to keep your head in and play one game at a time.”

After a long schedule of tournaments to get this far, the Huskies had a little down time earlier in the week. They travelled to Wisconsin on Wednesday and hope to be ready Friday morning.

“I think we’ll be alright,” Verrier said. “I think our team is apt to hit good pitching. If we do see more velocity, I think our team can handle that. It’s the game of baseball and everywhere you go, the game is the same.”

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