Spartan softball coach Eric Ramey knew the home stretch of his team’s schedule would be a challenge. The final six games going into last weekend all feature Little East Conference opponents, and wins are necessary for the Spartans to advance into the six-team LEC tournament later this month.
“It’s not an easy road for us to drive right now,” Ramey said last Thursday.
Then the Spartans upset #3 ranked Eastern Connecticut State in Windham, Connecticut Friday afternoon, splitting the day’s doubleheader with a dramatic last inning out at third base spurred by a desperate sacrifice bunt by the Warriors.
It is the only blemish on the Warrior’s conference record, handed to them by a team that joined the LEC three seasons ago, and had one of those seasons wiped out by the pandemic. At a 6-6 conference record, the Spartans are in 4th place, tied for the 3rd most wins in the conference with the tournament scheduled to start on May 11.
“I think our tournament chances are really good now,” said Junior catcher Jamie Boyle. “More than anything, beating Eastern Connecticut just shows what we can do as a team once we are in the tournament.”
Boyle said tenacity is key to the Spartans success on the diamond in 2021.
“The major key to us beating a team like East Conn is that we keep fighting. When things get tough or start to go in favor of the other team, we keep fighting and playing,” she said.
That tournament is still four conference games away, with a road doubleheader at UMass Dartmouth, and a home doubleheader to close out the regular season, hosting the first place University of Southern Maine Huskies.
Losses could bump the Spartans down out of the top six. UMass Dartmouth, Western Connecticut and Keene State are all within two wins or less of the Spartans six win mark. There are still many innings of softball to be played before the tournament begins.
If the Spartans are able to put it all together and roll into the tournament, they will have some credence to their name. They have defeated every team in the conference at least once to this point – except those 10-0 Huskies, whom they have not faced yet.
“We’ve got some challenges that we need to be prepared for,” Ramey said. “Southern Maine is getting top 25 votes…I think being able to qualify in what is really only our second season in the LEC says a lot about our kids,” he said.