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Globe South Sports

North Easton's Matt Hart dominates Worcester State's baseball

By Craig Larson
May 7, 2009
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Hart dominates Worcester baseball
The numbers jump off the stat sheet: a .412 batting average, 14 home runs, 34 RBIs. He's swiped 26 bases in 26 attempts. His slugging percentage is a ridiculous .810.

Then dig a little bit deeper, and the essence of Matt Hart, a senior leadoff hitter extraordinaire for the Worcester State College baseball team, truly emerges.

The smooth-swinging left-handed hitter from North Easton is the igniter who fuels the Lancer attack, reaching base nearly 50 percent of the time. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound graduate of Oliver Ames is an on-base machine: 41 times this season he has reached base leading off an inning, including 21 times leading off a game, with five home runs.

"An unreal year, one for the ages," said Worcester State coach Dirk Baker, who believes Hart deserves the opportunity to showcase his vast skills in pro ball.

In his 14 years in the Lancer dugout, Baker has coached five previous MASCAC Players of the Year. Hart, who powered Worcester to a 13-1 conference mark, the conference championship game, and a 29-14 mark through Sunday, is his sixth.

And he takes a back seat to no one.

"A six-tool player: defense, batting, power, base running, arm, and closer," lauded Baker.

Add clutch too. In Sunday's MASCAC elimination game against Westfield State, Hart cracked a two-out home run in the ninth inning, as the Lancers rallied for an 8-5 victory. Westfield pulled out a 4-3 win in the championship game later that day.

In Saturday's semifinal against Bridgewater State, Hart belted a home run, estimated at 500 feet, onto Lake Avenue in Worcester as the Lancers charged back from a 7-0 deficit for a 9-8 win.

In 2007, Hart was an all-region performer at Massasoit Community College in Brockton before transferring to Worcester State. After closing out the regular season against Suffolk on Tuesday, the Lancers will play an ECAC New England Division 3 semifinal on Saturday in Worcester.

Bridgewater's King softballer of week
Bridgewater State sophomore first baseman Penny King earned MASCAC Softball Player of the Week honors after batting .333 with 5 RBIs during the Bears run to the conference tournament title. The Hanover High grad delivered two hits in the championship game, including a two-run double in a 3-0 championship game win over Westfield State. BSC (28-9) entered the NCAA Division 3 tournament riding an 11-game winning streak. . . . On the baseball diamond, Westfield State junior outfielder Kevin Lyons of Braintree also collected Player of the Week honors, batting .450 with a pair of doubles, two homers, and seven RBIs in powering the Owls to the conference title. . . . Final numbers are in for Bentley senior shortstop Alex Hitchcock of Abington, who earned first team all-Northeast-10 honors for the second straight season. She finished her standout career with a .329 average and as Bentley's all-time leader in hits (129), total bases (226), games (169), games started (169), at bats (513), and assists (476). Over the final 12 games of her career, she hit .529 to boost her average 68 points to a career-best .360.

Forand boosts Nichols's lacrosse
Just how big an impact did Krista-Jean Forand (inset) make on the Nichols College women's lacrosse program in her first season? The freshman attack from Plymouth netted a team-high 46 points (36 goals) in 13 games for a 3-10 Bison squad that finished with 85 total goals. The Hebron Academy graduate was selected the Rookie of the Year in The Commonwealth Coast Conference. During conference-only play, Forand scored 15 of her team's 37 goals and added three assists. "KJ has been a tremendous addition to the lacrosse program as she brings a high level of intensity and energy to the field," said Nichols coach Kristan Mallet, noting that Forand played ice hockey last winter and plans to play field hockey in the fall. "She is a solid goal scorer, but is also developing her ability to assist her teammates."

Westwood High graduate Jackie Criss, a senior at Roger Williams University, was honored as the TCCC's Defensive Player of the Year. From her midfield position, Criss helped spearhead a defense that ranks second in all of NCAA Division 3 with 6.51 goals allowed per game, as of the most recent national statistics update. Criss led her team with 25 caused turnovers in conference play and 34 in all regular-season games played. She also led the Hawks with 32 ground balls during the regular-season. Roger Williams (15-2) lost in the conference final to Endicott, 12-4, and was awaiting a possible NCAA tournament at-large berth.

Xaverian Brothers grad Brendan Grant of Walpole, a freshman attack on the Bentley men's lacrosse team, earned a spot on the Northeast-10 All-Rookie Team. Grant has had one of the most productive offensive seasons for a freshman in the conference this season. He's tied for third on the team in goals (11), and is second in both assists (11) and points (22). Bentley finished 9-4 after falling in the NE-10 semifinals.

Craig Larson can be reached at clarson@globe.com.