Bangor, ME - The Husson University softball team kicked off its 2014 North Atlantic Conference schedule with a doubleheader sweep of rival Castleton State College on Sunday afternoon.
The Castleton Spartans managed to score runs in the top of the first inning in both games, but the Husson offense would come back with plenty of firepower in each to runaway with the victories. The Eagles took game one 9-3 after scoring seven runs in their final two at-bats, and they won game two 11-3 in a run-rule shortened five innings.
Husson, the five-time defending NAC champion, improves to 10-4 overall with the victories, and they also move to 2-0 in the NAC this year. Castleton falls to 1-7 overall, and 0-2 in the NAC.
In game one, the Spartans jumped out early when Brittany Brayman drove home Tori Fearon with a first inning single.
Husson would take a lead in the second inning, coming up with a two-run frame that was started by a Jess Poulin (Albion, ME) leadoff double. Haley Spiers (Rochester, NH) would bring Poulin home with a single up the middle, and Kayla Merrill (Bethel, ME) subsequently drove in Sami Schultz (Hermon, ME) who had reached via hit-by-pitch.
Castleton would answer right back, tallying two runs of their own in the top of the third inning. Fearon ripped a one-out double off the center field fence, and came home to score on another Brayman RBI single. Brayman would also come in to score after advancing to second on an error, and scoring on a Chelsea Grady single.
Castleton would hold the 3-2 advantage until Husson came up to the plate in the bottom of the fifth. The Eagles would bat around the order in the inning, scoring five runs on three hits, two walks, and a Spartan error. Kayla Merrill would provide the big hit in the rally, a two-run single that plated Poulin and Schultz.
Husson tacked on two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, and starting pitcher Amanda Ryan (Brewer, ME) struck out the side in the seventh to seal the complete-game victory. Ryan gave up 10 hits in her seven innings, surrendering three runs (two earned) while striking out eight and walking three.
Poulin went 3-for-4 with three runs scored to lead the Eagles in game one, while Kayla Merrill went 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run scored. Eight of the nine Husson starters wound up with at least one hit in the win.
Fearon and Brayman each knocked three hits to lead the Spartans in game one. Fearon went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored, while Brayman went 3-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
Husson head coach Kristie Hawkins was impressed with her club's resiliency in game one, saying afterward, "I was proud that we came from behind, we were a little flat to start but we came out in the middle innings and really got things going and that was important for us to keep that up from there."
In game two, Castleton would again get on the board quickly with a run in the top of the first inning. In the same fashion as game one, Brayman knocked Fearon in with an RBI single to give the Spartans an early lead.
Husson would waste no time in answering, exploding for six runs on seven hits in the bottom half of the frame.
The 1-2-3 hitters Kayla Merrill, Allie Hill (Calais, ME), and Lyndsay Merrill (Bethel, ME) all came up with base hits to start things off, and Casey Lopes (New Bedford, MA) laced a one-out double to keep the pressure on.
Sami Schultz would then come up to the plate with two on and two out, and blast a three-run home run to left-center field that clanged off a light tower beyond the fence. Mallory Conary kept the onslaught going with an RBI single to chase home Haley Spiers, who doubled after Schultz's round-tripper, before Castleton was finally able to get out of the inning after going down 6-1.
Husson added two more in the second inning, as Lindsey Merrill launched a two-run homer of her own that drove in Hill to make it 8-1.
The Eagles tacked on some insurance in the fourth, scoring three runs on five hits. Another highlight came when Nicole Andrade (New Bedford, MA) pinch-hit for Spiers and roped an RBI double that missed clearing the fence by mere inches and made it 11-1.
Alannah Healy (Brockton, MA) came in to pitch the top of the fifth for Husson, and while Fearon was able to connect for a two-run homer the Spartans could not close the gap enough to extend the game.
Kayla Merrill picked up her sixth pitching win of the year for the Eagles in game two, throwing four innings while giving up one run (unearned) on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
Schultz was 2-for-2 with the three-run homer and a single, scoring two runs and knocking in three. Lyndsay Merrill went 2-for-3 with three runs batted in, while Hill and Kayla Merrill each contributed two hits.
Fearon led the Spartans again in game two, going 1-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored, while Brayman and Kristi Lawless each picked up two hits.
Hawkins reflected on the sweep after game two, saying, "That offensive power display we put on in game two was pretty exciting, but it was nicer to put two conference wins under our belt and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we're OK and we're still as good as we think we can be."
Husson will have eight games coming up next week, starting with an out-of-conference doubleheader at the University of Southern Maine on Tuesday. They will then travel to Maine Maritime for a NAC twin-bill on Wednesday, before taking on Lyndon State and Johnson State for doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday.
Castleton has no breaks in their schedule either, with eight games across four doubleheaders on their docket for the coming week. They will travel to Maine Maritime on Monday, go to Plymouth State on Thursday, and host U-Maine Farmington and Thomas on Satuday and Sunday.