LOWELL -- Long before UMass Lowell junior infielder/outfielder Abby Jamieson had any interest in throwing a softball, she held a hockey stick.
"We're a huge hockey family," said the Billerica native, who began shooting pucks at age 4.
The ice was a haven for Jamieson, who has always looked up to her two older brothers. Both happen to be hockey standouts -- Mike is a 21-year-old freshman forward at Northeastern, while John played at Merrimack College before graduating in 2011.
Jamieson preferred to follow their lead, spending time in rinks and on the baseball diamond. It wasn't until her freshman year at Austin Prep that she converted to softball.
By the sixth grade, Jamieson was playing varsity hockey at Austin Prep. But softball also worked out quite well. She captained the Cougars in her final two years, batting .450 as a senior en route to being named a Sun All-Star. Turned out, her athletic future would be with a bat in her hand.
"I knew that I wanted to stay close to home in college," said Jamieson. "(UMass Lowell) Coach (Sean) Cotter came to one of my games and he was the first coach to contact me. My mom went here and graduated from the nursing program, so we knew it was a great school to go to."
A year after being named a Division 2 All-American as a designated player, Jamieson has arguably been UMass Lowell's most consistent and productive offensive player this spring.
In the program's first season at the Division 1 level, the 5-foot-6 left-handed hitter is batting .
"She really hits," said Cotter, the fifth-year head coach. "She had a monster year last year at the Division 2 level. She got off to a little bit of a slow start, but has really had a good second half for us. She has real quick wrists, and she hits to all fields, which our team struggles with."
That wrist strength has no doubt been aided by years of playing hockey.
"She clearly comes from an athletic family," said Cotter. "She's got some good versatility, she's played a bunch of different spots for us over the course of her three years here. She brings a lot to the table."
Jamieson had a seven-game stretch from March 8-15 that saw her struggle through a 1-for-16 stint at the plate. She addressed her approach, realizing that the talent in the pitching circle is significantly more potent in D1 compared to D2. Over her last 10 games, she is 12-for-34 (.353).
It has been a season full of lumps for the new kids on the Division 1 block. The River Hawks started the season 1-11, and have lost seven of their last eight. Making progress is the name of the game.
"I think we're doing pretty well. We are facing difficult teams, so it's challenging," said Jamieson. "Putting up runs is something we need to do better to win games. But we seem to be sticking in more games than people thought we would've. I'm proud of my team. It's tough to lose games back-to-back-to-back, but sometimes we get pumped up even in games we lose."
Jamieson is part of a strong contingent of locally-developed players on the UML roster. She joins Lowell's Tori Alcorn, Burlington's Courtney Lanfranchi, Tewksbury's Ally Greene, Dracut's Lauren Ramirez and Hudson's (N.H.) Kathryn Donovan.
Cotter puts an emphasis on making sure he does his recruiting due diligence in the Merrimack Valley.
"There's certainly good talent not only in Middlesex County, but in the state of Massachusetts," said Cotter. "Obviously, with us going Division 1 and being funded a little bit differently, we're certainly broadening our horizons with where we're bringing kids in from. But being a state school, we're always going to have those local kids."
Jamieson says she misses hockey, but is very happy with her decision to attend UMass Lowell and play softball. There are, however, times where her family loyalty takes precedence over her River Hawk loyalty.
"When UMass Lowell plays Northeastern in hockey, I have everyone from my family over to my apartment before the game and then we go to the Tsongas Center and cheer for Northeastern."
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