Husson University’s softball team had a huge void to fill this spring in the circle.
Last season’s star pitchers Jen Jones and Sydney Ames, who combined for a 27-3 record a year ago, had to be replaced. Jones was 14-1 and the North Atlantic Conference Pitcher of the Year.
McKenna Smith has done her part to fill that void.
The former Old Town High School star transferred to NCAA Division III Husson from Division II Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, where she compiled a 17-6 record in three seasons with a miniscule 1.01 earned run average and 230 strikeouts in 159 ⅓ innings.
So far for the 5-5 defending three-time North Atlantic Conference champion Eagles, she is 4-2 with a 1.10 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 44 ⅔ innings. She has walked 15 and allowed only one homer.
“I felt like I had an epiphany,” said Smith about her decision to transfer. “At that point, it wasn’t a difficult decision. I have no regrets at all.
“I made a lot of good memories at Saint Anselm and I also learned a lot about who I am as a player and as a person and what I need,” she added.
She was 8-2 with an 0.82 earned run average last season, which was the lowest in the Northeast-10 and third-lowest among all NCAA Division II schools. Saint Anselm advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four where it went 1-2.
Smith was 3-0 with an 0.87 ERA in four playoff games including a 2-1 win over Adelphi in the Northeast-10 championship game and a 4-0 win over Georgian Court in the NCAA East Regional title game that earned the Hawks the trip to Denver for the Final Four.
Two years ago, her average 13.19 strikeouts per seven innings was the nation’s best in Division II.
Her freshman season, she had six saves and was third best in the country.
But her move to Husson brings her back home “with some of the most amazing people I know,” she said.
Smith likes that her parents, Denise and Corey, will get more of an opportunity to see her pitch.
And she is being reunited with three of her former coaches at Husson.
Rick Roberts was her pitching coach for over 10 years, while assistant Jenn Plourde was her head coach at Old Town High and head coach Diann Ramsey was her summer softball coach with Sluggers in Brewer.
“It’s nice to be back with the coaches. And my teammates are awesome. I played with or against a lot of them in high school or in summer ball,” said the hard-throwing Smith.
“She has brought a key competitive factor to our pitching staff,” Ramsey said. “And the experience she has gained has been valuable.”
Smith has been pleased with her season to date as the Eagles prepare for a 1 p.m. Saturday doubleheader at the University of New England in Biddeford.
“I’m happy but I’m definitely not satisfied. I want to continue to improve,” said the 5-foot-7 Smith, a health-science/biology major who has one more year of eligibility after this season.
She feels the Eagles have good potential.
“If we can continue to improve our weaknesses and focus on the small details, we’ll have a real good future ahead of us,” Smith said.