Nighthawks Fall Short in Winner-Take-All Championship

Photo Credit: Dylan Foran
Photo Credit: Dylan Foran

BOSTON, Mass. - The goal was simple entering the day for both teams, a single win for the Lesley Lynx would give them the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. For the Newbury Nighthawks, they were in need of two victories to clinch the New England Collegiate Conference Crown. Following a third straight comeback win for the Nighthawks, the season came down to a final, winner-take-all, game.

Game 10: Newbury 4 - Lesley 3

In the rarest of walk-offs, the Nighthawks came back from three runs down on a fielder's choice by senior Lindsey Clark (Venice, Fla.) that scored freshman Mallory Stefan (Thornton, Colo.), giving the Nighthawks a 4-3 win over the Lesley Lynx on Championship Sunday, forcing another game to determine the winner of the NECC.

Nighthawks freshman Arianna Gooden (Bakersfield, Calif.) batted 1-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. Senior Naomi Ricciotti (Pheonix, Ariz.) and Stefan both finished 1-for-3 with a double. 

Lynx junior Courtney Goggin (Cheshire, Conn.) batted 3-for-3, including a triple and two RBIs. Senior Mekenzi Golden (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) batted 2-for-3 including a lead-off home run to start the game.

The Nighthawks magic run of comebacks was grinding to a halt as Lynx freshman Sarah Bushman (Aurora, Colo.) didn't allow a hit through 5 1/3 innings.

Trailing 3-0 after 5 1/3 hitless innings, Nighthawks sophomore Alina Milauskas (Elkridge, Md.) broke up the no-hitter with a single to center. Sophomore Noelle Sass (Randolph, Mass.) then singled to put two on with one out.

Two batters later, Ricciotti doubled to left-center, scoring Milauskas. A Gooden single followed, scoring Sass and Ricciotti to tie the game at 3-3.

Stefan led off the Nighthawks seventh with a double down the right field line; she later advanced to third on a passed ball. Three batters later, a slow rolling ground ball by Clark was bobbled and the throw home was not in time, giving the Nighthawks their third comeback win of the tournament, 4-3.

The Lynx led off the game with a Golden home run down the left-field line, just staying fair with the assistance of a harsh wind holding the ball fair.

In the fourth, the Lynx doubled that lead on a two-out, RBI triple by Goggin.

The Lynx added one more in the sixth with Goggin's second RBI of the day, courtesy a single to center field that gave the Lynx a 3-0 lead.

Stefan was credited with the victory, improving to 11-10, while going all seven innings, allowing three earned on nine hits. Bushman took credit for the loss, falling to 13-7, allowing three earned on five hits. At one point this weekend, Bushman held a streak of 12 1/3 innings pitched with only one hit allowed.

Game 11: Lesley 3 - Newbury 0

As she did in the opening game, Golden led off the game with a home run, providing all the offense the Lynx would need in their 3-0 victory over the Newbury Nighthawks, clinching the NECC Championship and the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Golden finished the second game 3-for-4, including a pair of singles. Sophomore Jordan Raab (Rochester, N.H.) went 3-for-3, all singles and a RBI. Senior Carlyn Barker (Temecula, Calif.) finished 1-for-2 with a RBI.

Stefan finished 2-for-3, including a double. Gooden, Milauskas, and sophomore Alexis Vieira (Pawtucket, R.I.) all finished 1-for-3, each with a single.

Golden's leadoff home run in the bottom of the first was a no-doubter, as it nearly left the confines of Sweeney Field, giving the Lynx a 1-0 lead.

In the Lynx third, with runners on the corners and one out, Raab singled up the middle, scoring Barker for a 2-0 Lynx lead.

The Nighthawks threatened in the fourth with two on and two out, but a Stefan foul out ended the threat, keeping the Nighthawks off the board.

The Lynx opened up another 3-0 lead in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Barker that scored Goggin.

The Nighthawks were retired in order in the fifth and sixth and managed only one baserunner in the late innings thanks to a double from Stefan. 

With Stefan on and two outs, Lynx senior pitcher Allyson Nisbet (Clovis, Calif.) struck out the last batter, clinching the championship for Lesley.

Nisbet's shutout performance moves her to 8-8 this season while allowing just five hits in seven innings. Milauskas took the loss, dropping to 12-7 while allowing two earned on 10 hits.

The split of games moves the Nighthawks to 23-17 and the Lynx to 22-17. 

The NECC Championship gives the Lynx an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament starting later this week. Lesley will see what lies ahead Monday as the NCAA Selection Process begins at 1:00 p.m.