Thomas College senior Lauren Guppy makes contact during a game last season. Guppy, a Mt. Blue graduate, was set to be an infielder for the Terriers this spring, in her senior season. Contributed photo

 

For college athletes across the country, the spring season was over before it began.

As the coronavirus grew into a pandemic, concerns over spreading the virus ground college sports to a sudden halt. Promising seasons were canceled. Championship hopes were dashed. And players who spent months training saw no chance for a payoff for their work.

For seniors, it was particularly difficult. A ruling by the NCAA to extend the eligibility for any spring athletes helped, and some will take advantage of the break.

Others, though, will not, and will see their careers end without a final season.

All across Maine, senior athletes found themselves facing an unprecedented situation. Here are a few of their stories:

 

Chase Malloy,

Outfielder, UMaine-Farmington baseball

On March 11, Chase Malloy and his teammates on the University of Maine-Farmington baseball team attended a morning practice. The Beavers were due to head to Florida for their annual spring trip in two days. With breaking news about things shutting down to the coronavirus pandemic coming one after another, Malloy knew the trip was likely not happening.

“Every few hours, things were changing so fast,” Malloy an infielder/pitcher from Madison, said. “It was a weird practice. Nobody said anything about it, but it was a somber practice.”

University of Maine at Farmington senior Chase Molloy, a Madison graduate, was going to pitch and play the infield for the Beavers this spring. Contributed photo

Malloy worked his way into UMF’s starting lineup as a sophomore. Last season as a junior, Malloy hit .339 and scored 31 runs in 35 games to earn first team all-North Atlantic Conference honors at third base. This season, Malloy had his sights set high. He felt the Beavers had a shot at the conference championship.

“I had high expectations for myself and the team,” Malloy said. “We were picked fifth (of six teams) in the conference preseason poll. I was looking forward to proving everybody wrong.”

Personally, Malloy was only 26 hits shy of 100 for his career. After 40 hits last season, the milestone was well within reach. With a good season, Malloy would have been in the discussion for NAC Player of the Year.

Malloy said he has some teammates in the Class of 2020 who have talked about returning next year to play their final season. A biology major, Malloy has plans to attend graduate school at the University of New England and study physical therapy. Malloy loves playing college baseball, but his life has to go on. He’s coming to grips with the sudden, unexpected end to his baseball career.

“I’m doing OK. It’s a crazy situation,” he said. “The end of your senior year is something you look forward to.”

 

Lauren Guppy,

Infielder, Thomas College softball

As the only senior on the Thomas College softball team, Lauren Guppy saw colleges across the country closing and Division I games and tournaments being cancelled, and cautioned her teammates that they could be next.

“I said, ‘Guys, this is something that could happen to us,'” said Guppy, a Mt. Blue High School graduate. “On (March 9) we weren’t talking about the coronavirus. Five days later, we were closed. … There’s nothing we can control with what’s happening.”

An infielder for the Terriers, Guppy worked to improve her game. Last season, she raised her batting average to .392 after hitting .148 as a sophomore. Guppy scored 27 runs in 34 games in 2019, and earned second-team all-North Atlantic Conference honors.

“I thought we were going to win (the conference) this year,” Guppy said.

Guppy embraced being a leader to her younger teammates.

“I gained a lot of confidence last year, and that gave me a lot of knowledge I can give to the younger players,” Guppy said. “I felt like they were comfortable coming to me to talk about anything.”

Guppy is on track to graduate with a Master’s degree in Sports Management in May. She’s considering going back to school for another year to pursue a second bachelor’s degree. If Guppy takes that path, she could return for another season of softball.

“I can always go back and play,” Guppy said. “Next year (Thomas softball) is going to be amazing because they’re losing only me.”

 

Karen Flaherty

Shortstop, UMaine-Farmington softball

The UMF softball team team made the playoffs last year, and with all but one of the players back, the Beavers were looking forward to returning this season.

Which was the biggest reason it stung so much to see the season called off by the coronavirus outbreak before a single game was played.

“It didn’t really seem real,” senior shortstop Karen Flaherty said. “Just heartbreaking. It’s hard to work for four years for it to be canceled like that.”

For Flaherty, a Rumford native and Mountain Valley graduate, it was especially difficult to know that decision was the end of the road.

“(I was hoping) just to be a stronger player and really improve my hitting,” said Flaherty, a two-year starter who posted a .377 on-base percentage last year. “It was so sudden, just thrown onto us with no choice or anything. One day we thought we’d have our whole season ahead of us, and then it was just ripped away.”

Flaherty doubts she’ll take advantage of the NCAA’s decision to grant spring athletes the extra year of eligibility.

“Maybe, with time. As of now, I don’t plan on it,” she said. “I’d already taken an extra semester to finish out my senior season. So I just don’t think it’s possible.”

Flaherty is, however, hoping to stay in the sport as a coach at the youth levels.

“I love being around kids. I think if I took softball as a coach in the next step, that would be a good choice,” she said. “And that’s kind of what I want to do going forward.”

 

Quinn Stebbins

Pitcher, Thomas baseball

It hadn’t been a smooth college career for Quinn Stebbins. The pitcher and former Hall-Dale standout had two injury-marred seasons, and didn’t pitch extensively until last season.

He was confident his senior year was going to be different, however.

“I learned a lot from last season and over the summer and into the fall, just working, constantly tweaking everything,” he said. “I was ready to go.”

The season was over before it began, however, and Stebbins said he was stunned by the announcement.

“I don’t know if there’s a specific word to describe it,” he said. “One of the closest ones would probably just be ‘heartbroken.’ There’s probably not another feeling in the world I’ve felt like that before.”

Stebbins was hoping to be one of Thomas’s top relievers this season after going 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 17.2 innings last year. But he was also hoping to help lead a team he felt was on the brink of becoming one of the NAC’s best.

“I kind of wanted to … leave my mark on the program,” he said. “I thought in three years — this year, next year and the year after — they would end up winning a conference championship. I just wanted to be a little part in that.”

Stebbins, who’s in the masters program at Thomas, said he doesn’t see himself coming back even with the NCAA’s eligibility extension for spring athletes. He had an internship with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League, and is eager to pursue a career in the sport.

“My goal is to stay in baseball as long as I can,” he said. “I’m hoping to go into either baseball operations, scouting, player development, something along those lines.”

 

Dylan Hapworth

Outfielder, University of Southern Maine baseball

University of Southern Maine outfielder Dylan Hapworth could sense that the season was in trouble.

University of Southern Maine outfielder/designated hitter Dylan Hapworth hit .303 with 13 extra base hits and 33 RBIs last season. Contributed photo

But when the decision was made, it was still a blow for the former Winslow star.

“It’s definitely very disappointing,” he said. “We’re pretty lucky to be able to play baseball in college … and I really feel like all those good times got taken from us.”

Not permanently, however. The NCAA ruled that spring athletes will be able to get their lost season back, and Hapworth said he and most of the seven USM seniors are planning on returning. The Huskies went 37-9 last year, and had high expectations this season as well.

“The more I thought about it, I realized you can’t play baseball forever,” he said. “I’ve just got to take advantage of it, because there are a lot of people, a lot of kids who would kill to be in my position.”

It would be Hapworth’s sixth year at USM. He redshirted as a freshman due to Tommy John surgery.

“I’m definitely going to have to go through some hoops, and figure it out with classes and eligibility-wise,” he said. “I’ve been talking to my academic advisors, trying to figure something out.”

Hapworth was looking forward to being one of the leaders for the Huskies this season. He batted .303 with five home runs and 33 RBI last year, and went 2-for-4 with a home run before the season was called off after one game.

“I’m definitely going to miss just the relationships you form, and all the tough times you go through each game and all the good times,” he said. “It’s just really nice to go out there and win games.”


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