PAWTUCKET, R.I. – University of Massachusetts Dartmouth outfielder Nicole McSweeney (Bridgewater, Mass.) became the first freshman in softball program history to earn First Team All-Little East Conference accolades on Monday as the league announced its 2017 awards program.
Joining McSweeney on the list of 24 honorees as voted upon by the LEC head coaches was junior pitcher Hannah Smith (Attleboro, Mass.), who earned a spot on the Second Team for her first career postseason honor.
McSweeney compiled a .365 batting average and scored 27 runs on the season, good for second on the UMass Dartmouth roster as the everyday left fielder. With 50 hits, she matched teammate Marissa Spinuzzi for the fifth-most hits in a single season in program history. In 14 LEC games, she generated a remarkable .426 average with 23 hits in the leadoff spot. Defensively, McSweeney earned her keep in the outfield with a .919 fielding percentage and just six errors on the season, generating 64 put-outs in 74 total chances.
Beginning at UMass Dartmouth’s spring training trip at the Gene Cusic Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., McSweeney strung together an 11-game hit streak from March 13 to April 2. The freshman then increased her output even further in the backstretch of the season, beginning with a 5-for-8 doubleheader performance on April 8 in the Corsairs’ sweep of Plymouth State. From that point forward, McSweeney generated nine multi-hit games, including a 5-for-8 outing against Eastern Connecticut and a 5-for-7 day against Rhode Island College. In the Corsairs’ walk-off victory over Southern Maine on April 30 to secure an LEC playoff berth, she went 3-for-5 with an RBI double to force extra innings in the bottom of the seventh.
As the Corsairs’ ace in 2017, Smith tossed a career-high 157 innings with a career-best ERA of just 1.78, the second-lowest amrk in the LEC. With 89 strikeouts on the season, she upped her career total to 250 which currently ranks fourth all-time in program history. Smith notched her 200th career strikeout on April 2 as part of a 15-inning day against Western Connecticut, and finished the season with four games of seven or more Ks.
The junior captain recorded her first career no-hitter in 2017 in a five-inning affair with Worcester State on March 30, walking only two with two strikeouts in UMass Dartmouth’s 4-0 shutout. On April 27, Smith yielded just one hit in a complete-game shutout of Rhode Island College, and carried the Corsairs to a 4-0 shutout of Eastern Connecticut in the LEC Tournament opener, scattering just four hits with six Ks. Smith also rose to the occasion at the dish when needed, batting a career-high .289 in 45 at-bats with three RBIs.
In head coach Amy Sasin’s seventh season, UMass Dartmouth surpassed the 20-win mark for the second-straight year with an overall mark of 22-19. The Corsairs kicked off the season with a 7-0 start at the Cusic Classic, and went 7-7 in a highly competitive LEC schedule. With sweeps of eventual No. 1 seed Plymouth State and a pair of walk-off wins against Southern Maine, Sasin’s charges clinched the No. 5 seed for the LEC Tournament. UMass Dartmouth upset No. 2 seed ECSU in the opener before falling to league champion UMass Boston and the Warriors, who prevailed in nine innings on May 4.