CHICOPEE, Mass. - The goal was clear heading into Sunday afternoon's doubleheader at Elms College, a pair of wins would clinch the New England Collegiate Conference Regular Season Championship for the first time in program history.
Game One: Newbury 2 - Elms 1
A RBI double by Nighthawks senior Lindsey Clark (Venice, Fla.) in the fifth, scored fellow senior Elizabeth Kia (Kea'au, Hawaii) for what turned out to be the game-winning run for the Nighthawks in their 2-1 victory over the Elms Blazers in the first game of a doubleheader at Cheryl L. Condon Field.
Clark and Kia both finished with a hit, both doubles. Nighthawks sophomore Noelle Sass (Randolph, Mass.) batted 2-for-3, including a home run in the first. Senior Naomi Ricciotti (Pheonix, Ariz.) and freshman Mallory Stefan (Thornton, Colo.) both finished 1-for-3.
Blazers sophomore Kayla Doherty (Plaistow, N.H.), freshman Katelyn Sylvia (Southwick, Mass.), and senior Kacey Gifford (Suffield, Conn.) all finished 1-for-3; the only Blazers to draw a hit in the opening game.
Two batters into the game, Sass homered to center field, her seventh of the season, to open the scoring for a Nighthawks 1-0 lead. That home run also gave her the program record for most hits by a player in their first two seasons with 90.
The Nighthawks doubled the score in the fifth as a two-out double by Kia would lead the way for Clark's double, increasing the advantage to 2-0.
Throughout the middle innings, the Blazers offense was squashed as the Nighthawks recorded 11 straight outs between the third and seventh inning.
In the Blazers seventh, Sylvia's one-out double to center field would give the Blazers their first base runner since two outs in the third.
The next batter, senior Meg Shewchuk (Springfield, Mass.) reached safely on an error that allowed Sylvia to score from second, putting the tying run on base with the Blazers trailing 2-1.
A fielder's choice on the next play would put two on with one out. A wild pitch later moved the tying run to third and the winning run to second base. But, with two outs, Doherty grounded out to the pitcher, giving the Nighthawks the 2-1 win.
Stefan picked up the victory for the Nighthawks, allowing one run on three hits. It's the fifth time this season Stefan has allowed three or fewer hits in a complete game. Stefan improves to 9-9.
Blazers senior Tessa Cote (Granby, Mass.) took the loss in the opening game while allowing two runs on six hits.
Game Two: Newbury 3 - Elms 1
Nighthawks sophomore Alina Milauskas (Elkridge, Md.) batted 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, helping the Nighthawks to a 3-1 victory over the Blazers, resulting in a sweep of Sunday's games and the Regular Season Championship and No. 1 seed for the NECC Playoffs for the Nighthawks.
Sass finished the game 1-for-2 including another home run on the afternoon. Ricciotti batted 1-for-4 with a triple and a run scored.
Five Blazers drew a hit in the second game of the doubleheader. Slyvia, Doherty, and Cote, as well as sophomore Madison Messier (Warren, Mass.) and junior Elizabeth Olszewski (Canterbury, Conn.), all finished with one hit.
As was in the first game, Sass starting the scoring in the first inning with a home run to left field, her eighth of the season, giving the Nighthawks a 1-0 lead.
The Blazers once again were unable to produce base runners as Milauskas recorded 1-2-3 innings in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth. In the opening six innings for the Blazers, no runner made it further than first base.
The Nighthawks added critical insurance runs in the sixth starting the inning with Ricciotti's triple to the right-center gap. Freshman Arianna Gooden (Bakersfield, Calif.) knocked in Ricciotti with a RBI single and a 2-0 lead.
A sacrifice fly later in the inning by sophomore Tina Babcock (Ayer, Mass.) scored Gooden, giving the Nighthawks a 3-0 lead.
Once again in the seventh, the Blazers looked to make a comeback by starting the inning with three straight singles, loading the bases with no outs.
Gifford grounded out to second, scoring Sylvia, cutting into the deficit 3-1 with one out and two runners in scoring position.
Following a strikeout to put the Nighthawks one out away from the Regular Season Title, Shewchuk grounded out to Milauskas, completing the regular season with a 3-1 win.
Milauskas earned the win for the Nighthawks, throwing a complete game while allowing one run on five hits. Milauskas improves to 10-7 with the victory.
Cote was on the mound again for the Blazers, throwing seven innings while allowing three runs on seven hits.
The Nighthawks sweep moves them to 19-15 (14-2 NECC) and officially makes the Regular Season Champions and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming in the NECC Playoffs. The pair of losses drops the Blazers to 13-18 (10-8 NECC), as they lock up the six-seed in the NECC.
The opening round of the NECC Playoffs begins Tuesday with the Nighthawks hosting the No. 8 seed, a team to be determined when the official bracket becomes available. Tuesday's contest will be played at 7:00 p.m. at Regis College Softball Field.