Winslow graduate Dylan Hapworth is in his sixth season with the University of Southern Maine baseball program, missing his freshman season in 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, and last year to the coronavirus pandemic. But he’s picking up right where he left off at the plate for the Huskies. Photo provided by Jason Johns/USM Athletics

Dylan Hapworth may be the oldest player on the University of Southern Maine baseball team. But he certainly doesn’t hit like an old timer.

Hapworth — now in his sixth season with the Huskies and using his fourth and final year of eligibility — is back on the diamond, crushing pitches over the fence.

Through 15 games, Hapworth, an outfielder, has a .230 batting average, and is tied for second on the team with four home runs, along with 10 RBIs. The 2015 Winslow High School graduate has also yet to make an error in the field in 33 chances.

Hapworth said it took some time to adjust to playing games again, but feels like he’s starting to settle in.

“Baseball is a game of practice, practice, practice to be successful,” Hapworth said. “If you don’t count the one game we played last year, I haven’t played a game in two years. Maybe (it took) the first few games to get acclimated, but it’s always kind of been second nature to me. We practice a lot. I think we had over 100 practices — if you don’t count that one game — I think we had over 100 practices without even playing.”

Hapworth has had a winding road during his career at USM. He missed the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery, fixing the ulner collateral ligament in his right elbow. Like nearly all spring college athletes last year, Hapworth’s season was cut short after one game due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Aside from the two lost seasons, all Hapworth has done is mash. He was named the Little East Conference Rookie of the Year and was first team all conference in 2017, after hitting .394, with nine home runs and 41 RBIs. Hapworth was also named a D3Baseball.com third team All-American that season. In 2018, he hit .319 with a team-leading eight home runs and 26 RBIs. Hapworth’s home run total dipped slightly in 2019, hitting five, but he collected 33 RBIs while hitting .303.

The Huskies are 10-5, third in the Little East standings behind Eastern Connecticut and Castleton. Hapworth said he plans on enjoying the remaining time he has left in the program with his friends and teammates.

“It’s awesome to be playing baseball,” Hapworth said. “But it’s more fun being around the guys. I think the bonds and friendships that you make are probably the most important thing, what you end up taking from the whole thing. Yeah, we’re playing baseball, but it’s special, the guys you get to play with. Just the fun interactions you have with each other. That’s what I really missed from this COVID year was just being around my friends and obviously playing baseball, too.”

 

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The Husson softball team is enjoying an excellent start to the 2021 season, and Sydney Ames is a major reason for the success.

A sophomore and Skowhegan Area High School graduate, Ames has a .455 batting average through the first 12 games of the season with two doubles and five RBIs. She’s tied for the team lead in runs with 12.

“(Hitting success) depends on the day,” Ames said. “I always go (into games) with a positive mindset, saying ‘You’re going to do great today, we’re all going to do great. Keep your head in, push (the bat) through the ball.’ I guess some days are worse than others. Some days, I get into my head too much, I would say, and either do a pop up or a small, easy blooper, grounder. But most of the time I try to keep a positive mindset so that stuff doesn’t happen.”

Ames has been just as brilliant in the circle for Husson. In six starts, Ames has a 5-1 record with a 2.45 earned run average. She’s struck out 19 batters in 40 innings.

Husson sophomore Sydney Ames, a Skowhegan graduate, is 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA in the circle for the Eagles this season. She’s also dangerous at the plate, owning a .455 batting average and five RBIs. Photo provided by Simon French/Husson Athletics

Husson currently owns an 11-1 record, including four straight wins. The lone blemish for the Eagles came in a 2-1 loss to the University of Maine at Presque Isle in Bangor on March 27. Husson sits atop the North Atlantic Conference standings, with Northern Vermont-Lyndon (2-4) and Thomas College (3-3) trailing in second and third place, respectively.

“We definitely have a lot of strong hitters,” Ames said. “I would say our base running is very aggressive. Plus, our infield is immaculate. Personally, I feel we’re doing a really great job with execution and getting the balls where they need to go at the right time.”

Ames got off to a hot start last year as a freshman, hitting .321 with two RBIs in 10 games. The Eagles managed to play 12 regular-season games last year before the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve actually got a motto that goes ‘We have now,'” Ames said. “It just basically means to us, play for what we have, because it may get taken away at any moment, cherish every moment we make, every memory we have. We’re all pretty excited about (the start) and we just hope it continues.”

 

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It had been almost two years since Cal Tibbits stepped onto the diamond to play a game of baseball while representing the school he attends. The former Morse High School pitcher and shortstop is now in his freshman season at UMF, gearing up for conference play, which begins Thursday when the Beavers take on Husson at Hippach Field in Farmington.

“I’m extremely excited, I was lucky enough to play some baseball over the summer but playing for your school is a thrill like no other,” Tibbits said. 

After both the high school and college spring seasons were lost last year due to the ongoing pandemic, athletes find themselves craving competition like they never have before.

“Everyone is hungry and ready to compete, we expect to play some competitive baseball this season,” Tibbits said. “We all have one goal on our minds as a team, now it’s time to go meet it.”

The Beavers opened their season against The University of Southern Maine on March 31, a game in which the Huskies won 12-1.

 

Sports reporter Eli Canfield of The Times Record contributed to this report.

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