FRANKLIN, Mass. – A seven-run opening inning, all with two outs, was the catalyst for the Nighthawks offense as the top-seeded Nighthawks are moving on to the NECC Semifinal, Double Elimination Bracket via a 13-3 victory over the No. 8 seed Southern Vermont Mountaineers on Tuesday afternoon at Grant Field.
Nighthawks freshman Arianna Gooden (Bakersfield, Calif.) finished 4-for-4 including her first career home run. Sophomore Tina Babcock (Ayer, Mass.) went 3-for-3 including a double and two runs scored. All nine Nighthawk starters finished the game with at least one hit.
Mountaineers junior Nicole Matthews (Pittstown, N.Y.) batted 1-for-3 including a solo home run in the top of the third. Freshman Carly Gillman (Stamford, Conn.) finished 1-for-2 including a triple.
After two straight outs in the bottom of the first, the Nighthawks looked like they would be retired 1-2-3, but a throwing error by the Mountaineers third baseman continued the inning. Senior Naomi Ricciotti (Pheonix, Ariz.) then singled, scoring Alexis Vieira (Pawtucket, R.I.), tying the game at 1-1.
A Gooden single in the next at-bat, followed by a throwing error, scored Ricciotti and moved Gooden to third. A RBI single by freshman Mallory Stefan (Thornton, Colo.) made the score 3-1 Nighthawks.
Babcock then doubled to left field, moving Stefan to third. Stefan later scored on a wild pitch, Babcock scored following a double by senior Elizabeth Kia (Kea'au, Hawaii), giving the Nighthawks a 5-1 lead.
Senior Lindsey Clark (Venice, Fla.) would single home Kia and Clark later made it 7-1 on a passed ball.
The Nighthawks added more in the second, starting with Gooden's first career home run, a shot to right-center field. A Clark RBI groundout and Babcock scoring on a wild pitch would give the Nighthawks a 10-1 lead after two.
The Mountaineers got one back in the third with a home run by Matthews, her fourth of the season.
After a RBI single by Kia in the bottom of the third, Gillman's triple would score another for the Mountaineers, who now trailed 11-3.
However, in the bottom of the inning, Nighthawks sophomore Noelle Sass (Randolph, Mass.) hit a two-run shot to right-center field, giving the Nighthawks a 13-3 edge.
Three groundouts in the top half of the fifth ended the game in five innings.
Stefan received the start for the Nighthawks, going all five innings while allowing three runs on four hits. Stefan moves herself to 10-9 with the win.
Mountaineers junior Shea Wilson (Mesa, Ariz.) pitched four innings for Southern Vermont, allowing 13 runs, just six earned, on 15 hits.
The season comes to a close for the Mountaineers who returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
The Nighthawks improve to 20-15 with the victory and move forward to the double elimination portion of the NECC Playoffs. Waiting for the Nighthawks are the Lesley Lynx, the Regis Pride, and the Bay Path Wildcats.
For the first time in school history, a Nighthawks outdoor team will play host to the weekend tournament; the site and time of all games are yet to be determined.
The Nighthawks will face the Wildcats, who are on a 10-game win streak, including eight against NECC Teams. That game will take place on Thursday, May 4 with time and site to be determined tomorrow.