NECC Softball Championship Weekend Preview

Photo Credit: Dylan Foran
Photo Credit: Dylan Foran

BROOKLINE, Mass. - For the sixth consecutive season, the Newbury Nighthawks advanced to the double-elimination portion of the New England Collegiate Conference Championships and will chase their first Conference Championship in program history. Ahead of the No. 4 seed Nighthawks are the No. 1 seed Lesley University Lynx, the No. 2 seed Becker College Hawks, and the No. 3 seed Bay Path University Wildcats. The Lynx and Wildcats qualified for Championship Weekend last season, with Lesley claiming the title, while the Hawks will draw on their 2016 Championship as their recent success.

Lesley has hosting responsibilities for the first time since 2014 thanks to a 14-2 conference record in 2018. The Lynx are a lethal combination of offense and defense, posting a +85 run differential in the NECC, highest among the conference. Furthermore, the 149 runs scored are second only to Newbury, while the team ERA in conference play of 3.53 is third-best in the conference. 

The Lynx have relied on Rookie of the Year candidate Jordan Day (Seminole, Fla.) not only in the pitching circle but also at the plate. On the mound, Day holds a 19-8 record with an ERA of 3.64 in 161.2 innings pitched. At the plate, Day ranks second in the NECC in batting average, hitting .491 with 54 hits including 23 for extra bases. Senior Theresa Pereira (Hopedale, Mass.) is a constant threat with her speed, hitting .476 this season with 39 hits, only one of which went for extra bases.

After failing to make Championship Weekend last season, the Becker Hawks are looking to reclaim the Conference Title. The Hawks pitching has been among the best in the conference this season, allowing just 49 runs to opponents in 16 games, second-fewest in the NECC. Becker's 2.51 team ERA in conference games this season is the best in the conference.

The Hawks offense is helped by another Rookie of the Year candidate Sarah Ellis (Berkley, Mass.) and senior Rebecca Carkhuff (Amherst, Mass.). Ellis leads the team in batting average at .414, hits with 46, runs scored with 34, and doubles with 18. Carkhuff is right behind in average with .408 and 40 hits. Senior Samantha Lee (Prospect, Conn.) is a factor on both sides for Becker. Lee leads the team with seven home runs while hitting .382. On the mound, Lee holds a record of 12-10 with an ERA of 3.23.

The Wildcats are also looking for their first Conference Championship in program history. Bay Path held NECC opponents to just 48 runs, fewest in the NECC. Finishing 11-5 in the NECC this season, including nine shutouts, the Wildcats are top-three in numerous defensive categories and hold the second-best in conference ERA at 2.55.

Bay Path's offense is led by Player of the Year candidate, senior Lauren Vallee (Bristol, Conn.), who again leads the conference in batting average, hitting .504 this season. It's the second-straight season Vallee has led the NECC in batting average entering the Championship Weekend. The Wildcats have two of the top five pitchers in the conference in terms of total ERA. Sophomore Felicia Gaillardetz (Londonderry, N.H.) holds the best ERA in the conference at 2.47 while holding a record of 12-5. Junior Madison Goodhart (Pawtucket, R.I.) holds a 6-5 record this season with an ERA of 3.40, ranking fifth in ERA in the NECC.

The Nighthawks will turn to their offense to outscore their opponents as they have done many times this season. Posting a +76 run differential, second-best of the four teams, the Nighthawks scored the most runs in conference play with 162 but surrendered 86 runs, fourth-most in the NECC overall and most of the final four teams. Finishing 10-6 in the conference this season, the Nighthawks look to break through for the first time in history.

The Nighthawks offense is led by the duo of sophomore Arianna Gooden (Bakersfield, Calif.) and junior Noelle Sass (Randolph, Mass.). Gooden enters Championship Weekend hitting .447, fifth-best in the conference, with 55 hits, second-most in the conference behind Vallee. Sass is averaging .439 this season, with 47 hits, including 10 doubles and seven home runs. Sass' 21 extra base hits are fifth-most in the conference this season. Sophomore Mallory Stefan (Thornton, Colo.) has been consistent at the plate this season, batting .412. In Stefan's 25 appearances on the mound, she holds a record of 10-13 with a 4.19 ERA.

In the six games each team played against one another, the Lynx came out with a 5-1 record, that one loss is to Newbury. Becker finished 3-3 in those six games, while the Wildcats and Nighthawks each finished 2-4.

The action begins Thursday afternoon as the Wildcats head for Becker to battle the Hawks at 3:00 p.m. Later that day, the Nighthawks travel to battle Lesley at 6:00 p.m. As the top seed, Lesley will begin hosting the Softball Championship at Regis College in Weston, Mass., starting on Thursday with the 6:00 p.m. game. Regis College will host all games played on Saturday and Sunday.

The winners of Thursday's games face-off to go to the Championship Game on Saturday. The losers drop into the losers bracket and will face elimination in that bracket.