WESTON, Mass. – The second seed Lesley University softball team advanced into the winner's bracket of the New England Collegiate conference (NECC) Championship Tournament with a 2-1 win over Regis College, Thursday evening.
Featuring two of the conference's young first year pitchers, the Lynx's Sarah Bushman (Aurora, Colo.) and the Pride's Madi McLellan (Fremont, N.H.), the game lived up to its top-billing.
Regis looked to draw first blood in the top of the first opening with back-to-back singles by shortstop Brianna Napoleone (Medford, Mass.) and rightfielder Kelsey Grimard (Pelham, N.H.). But Bushman settled down. She got junior Amanda Navarro (Stoneham, Mass.) to fly out left before retiring first baseman Ellery Rasmussen (Kingston, N.H.) and third baseman Allison Caloggero (Medford, Mass.) on strikes.
However, McLellan was equally as dominant for the Pride retiring the first eight batters she faced. With two dominant pitchers in the circle for both teams it became evident that runs were going to be at a premium.
In the top of the third inning, the Lynx were aided by tremendous defense in their middle infield which swung momentum over to Lesley dugout. After Grimard lined a one-out single to right, Lynx junior second baseman Courtney Goggin (Chesire, Conn.) fielded a slow roller, calmly tagged Grimard before gunning the ball to first base for the double-play.
The double play in the top of the frame was a huge momentum shifter. McLellan was dealing, keeping the Lynx off balance through the early innings. However, junior centerfielder Theresa Pereira (Hopedale, Mass.) ended the string of eight straight batters retired by McLellan by beating out an infield single in the bottom of the third. Senior rightfielder Mekenzi Golden (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) launched her seventh homerun over the leftfield fence to give the Lynx the 2-0 advantage.
It appeared as though it was going to be more than enough for Bushman. The Pride threatened to score in the top of the fifth with runners in scoring position but the Colorado native got Napoleone to pop out to first to end the threat.
However, Regis was still not going away quietly. In the top of the seventh, junior catcher Alexa Nejaime (Sandisfield, Mass.) reached on a one-out single before leaving the game for pinch-runner Rachel Tortora (Malden, Mass.). Two batters later, senior Jenna Casello (Westborough, Mass.) laced a single into centerfield as Tortora advanced 60 feet. Pinch-hitting for Kelsey Morton (South Portland, Maine), sophomore Allie Petillo (West Sayville, N.Y.) lined a single through the right side to bring in Tortora to cut the deficit in half.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Napoleone made Bushman work, fouling off pitch after pitch, before legging out an infield single to third to load the bases for the Pride. But Regis was unable to come through to tie up the game. Grimard flew out to centerfield as Pereira squeezed the final out in her glove to send the Lynx into the winner's bracket.
Bushman improved to 12-6 on the season allowing one run while scattering eight hits and striking out four. McLellan took the loss falling to 11-8 on the year after allowing two runs on four hits through six innings.
The Lynx will face fifth seed Bay Path University, who upset the number one seed Newbury College, on Saturday May 6th at 2:00 p.m. The Pride will play Saturday afternoon in a win-or-go-home game against Newbury College at 12:00 p.m.