LEICESTER, Mass. - The breakout season continues for Nighthawks junior Averi Johnson (Oregon City, Ore.) as her two-run home run in the top of the seventh provided the game-winning runs as the sixth-seeded Newbury Nighthawks upset the third-seeded Becker Hawks, 8-7, on Tuesday afternoon in the first round of the New England Collegiate Conference Playoffs.
Johnson, who was named to the All-NECC Second Team earlier in the day, finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Freshman Caroline Mahoney (Easton, Mass.) added a grand slam for Newbury, finishing 1-for-4 on the day. Freshman Kiana Hinson (La Habra, Calif.) went 2-for-3.
Becker sophomore Sarah Ellis (Berkley, Mass.) and freshman Ashley Veillette (Danielson, Conn.) both batted 2-for-4, each with a home run. Veillette had a go-ahead two-run home run while Ellis had a solo shot in the third. Freshman Elizabeth Simonian (Auburn, Mass.) also went 2-for-4, adding two runs scored.
Veillette's two-run home run to center field in the bottom of the fifth broke a tie, giving Becker a 7-5 advantage.
The two-run edge held until the top of the seventh where the Nighthawks began their inning with back-to-back doubles to have runners on second and third with no outs.
Freshman Cameron LeClaire (Clinton, Conn.) lifted a ball to center, scoring the runner from third to get the Nighthawks within one at 7-6.
It was Johnson who stepped in and delivered a no-doubter home run over the right field fence, her third home run of the season, giving the Nighthawks an 8-7 lead.
The Hawks began the bottom of the inning with a single, but a pop out to the shortstop, and two fly outs to the right fielder, Johnson, ended the game in favor of the Nighthawks, who advance to the NECC Semifinals for the seventh consecutive season.
Becker held a 3-0 lead after the first, but Mahoney erased the Hawks advantage with her fourth home run of the season, a grand slam to left center, giving the Nighthawks a 4-3 lead. The home run is Mahoney's 55th hit of the year, breaking the program record for hits in a season by a freshman.
Hinson picked up her third consecutive win, pitching a complete game while allowing six earned runs on eight hits. She improves to 8-11 this season. Veillette also pitched a complete game, allowing eight runs, all earned, on 12 hits while falling to 12-8.
The Nighthawks season moves forward to the double-elimination portion of the postseason. Newbury will face the second-seeded New England Pilgrims on Thursday afternoon at NEC at 4:00 p.m. The winner faces the winner of Eastern Nazarene and Lesley while the losers of the games will face elimination on May 4.