By Adam Sopris, Assistant Commissioner of the Little East Conference
PAWTUCKET, R.I. - Arguably the most successful sport sponsored by the Little East Conference has been baseball. Member schools have won a combined six National Championships, with three coming after the conference began sponsoring baseball in 1996. Of the success that the conference has had in the sport, few can match the consistent success of the Southern Maine Huskies.
Baseball and Southern Maine go back a long time. The program came into existence in 1927, and has been a staple sport with the institution for almost 90 years. Upon the implementation of more regulated scheduling in 1970, the school began facing more consistent and challenging competition. After a shaky start throughout the 1970's the program began to gather momentum in the 1980's, with the team only posting one losing record during the decade. After making strides under Coach David Drew, the program became an even more dominant force upon the hiring of current head coach Ed Flaherty in 1986.
Southern Maine's dominance on the diamond hit the national level upon their first National Championship in 1991, the first National Championship won in the entire State of Maine. The Huskies finished the season with a 38-7 record, at that time the most single season wins in program history. During that season the team hit a current program best .382 at the plate, and finished the year winning 21 of their final 22 games. They would capture their second National Championship following the 1997 season. The team compiled a 39-9 mark, and an 11-3 record in the conference. They went on to capture the first LEC tournament championship over UMass Dartmouth, in route to their 15-1 victory in the NCAA championship game against Wooster College.
In recent seasons the program has seen continued success both against conference and national competition. The 2013 season saw the team set a program record with 46 wins and an appearance in the NCAA championship game. The Huskies fell in the title game against Linfield 4-1, but were still honored in other ways for their tremendous season. Three players were named first team All-Americans, with outfielder Tucker White also capturing the LEC Player of the Year honor. Flaherty was named the LEC Coach of the Year as well.
The program has compiled a total of 1,243 wins in its history, with 965 of them coming under the management of Flaherty, a 2013 inductee into the Little East Conference Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Huskie Hall of Fame at Southern Maine, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Association of Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Southern Maine's chief rival in the region has been Eastern Connecticut State. The two teams have met 109 times, with Eastern Connecticut holding a 64 to 45 advantage over the Huskies. The teams have met five times in the championship round of the LEC tournament, and they have combined for 14 tournament championships in the 20 seasons in which the conference has sponsored baseball.
The historic competitive success the LEC has achieved throughout the 30 years, beginning as a basketball only conference in 1986 and expanding into today's 19-Championship Sport Conference, will continue to make academic and athletic strides as the LEC continues to be the premier Division III conference of the New England region.
The Little East Conference was formed in 1986 when six public institutions gathered to create a single sport athletic conference and has expanded into what is now New England's premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. The LEC features 19 Championship Sports and sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes while following the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship and citizenship.