Nighthawks Senior Day Sweep Clinches Playoff Birth

Photo Credit: Dylan Foran
Photo Credit: Dylan Foran

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - The final playoff spot in the New England Collegiate Conference postseason was on the line on Sunday as the Newbury Nighthawks and Mitchell Mariners played a doubleheader to finish the regular season. The Nighthawks needed a sweep to take the six-seed, while any Mariners win would give them the last spot in the postseason. Additionally, the Nighthawks honored seniors Madison Elliott (Windham, Maine), Alexis Vieira (Pawtucket, R.I.), and Noelle Sass (Randolph, Mass.) for Senior Day.

Game One: Newbury 8 - Mitchell 6

The Nighthawks kept their playoff hopes alive, needing a game one comeback win, 8-6, to force a winner-take-all final game.

Nighthawks freshman Cameron LeClaire (Clinton, Conn.) batted a perfect 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Junior Averi Johnson (Oregon City, Ore.) went 2-for-3 with a double, a triple, and two RBIs. Alexis Vieira and freshmen Caroline Mahoney (Easton, Mass.) and Kiana Hinson (La Habra, Calif.) all finished 2-for-4.

Mariners senior Suzanne Vachon (East Hartford, Conn.) finished a perfect 4-for-4, all singles. Senior Taylor Duchesneau (Killingly, Conn.) and sophomore Kaitlin Thibodeau-Corey (Peabody, Mass.) both went 3-for-4. Thibodeau-Corey added a double while Duchesneau finished with two doubles.

The Nighthawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first but the Mariners charged ahead in the top of the second with five runs. 

An RBI double and RBI single tied the game at 2-2 and the Mariners took their first lead of the morning on a two-run double by freshman Madison Nicynski (Warwick, R.I.) for a 4-2 edge. Mitchell added one more in the inning on an RBI single by freshman Sydney Oatway (East Hartford, Conn.) to lead 5-2.

A Nighthawks, fourth inning, two-run single by sophomore Hailey Shaw (Salem, N.H.) got them back to within a run at 5-4.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Nighthawks surged ahead with a four-run inning. A two-run single by LeClaire gave the Nighthawks the lead back, 6-5. Johnson then provided a two-run triple to right field, giving the Nighthawks an 8-5 lead. 

The Mariners threated in the top of the seventh, adding a run on an RBI double by Dechesneau to trail 8-6, but the Nighthawks escaped the jam without any further damage, as they won the first game, setting up a win-and-in game two.

Game Two: Newbury 14 - Mitchell 10

The Nighthawks and Mariners offenses combined for 24 runs and 36 hits, but it was the Nighthawks who would claim the final playoff spot with a 14-10 win and sweep of the Mariners.

Nighthawks junior Averi Johnson batted 3-for-5 with a double, home run, and three RBIs. Freshman Caroline Mahoney went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs. Senior Alexis Vieira finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Mahoney's home run is her third of the season while it's the second of the year for Johnson.

Mariners senior Suzanne Vachon went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Freshman Madison Nicynski batted 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Sophomore Kaitlin Thibodeau-Corey finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs.

Three innings of dramatic and explosive softball saw the Mariners hold an 8-5 advantage as the game headed for the bottom of the fourth.

The Nighthawks grabbed the lead in the inning, scoring all five runs with two outs in the fourth. A two-run single by Mahoney and a two-run base hit by Vieira gave Newbury their first lead of the game at 9-8. The Nighthawks took a 10-8 lead later in the inning on an RBI single by Kiana Hinson.

Sophomore Hailey Shaw added some much-needed insurance in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run single up the middle, giving Newbury a 12-8 lead.

The four-run lead was cut in half in the top of the sixth on a two-run single to right field by Vachon, as the Mariners cut the deficit to 12-10.

But that four-run lead was reestablished in the bottom of the inning on a single by LeClaire and an RBI fielder's choice by Johnson, giving the Nighthawks a 14-10 edge. 

Mitchell began the seventh with back-to-back singles, but two flyouts to right field and a pop out to the shortstop ended the game, 14-10.

Between the two games, Hinson pitched 13 innings for the Nighthawks, allowing nine earned runs with five strikeouts, picking up the victory in both games to move to 8-11. 

The sweep lifts the Nighthawks to 12-25 (5-11 NECC) while the losses drop the Mariners to 11-22 (4-12 NECC).

The Nighthawks enter the postseason as the six-seed and will travel to Becker College on Tuesday, April 30 for a First-Round Game with first pitch set for 4:00 p.m.