WELLESLEY, MA – Led yet again by NECC Tournament MVP Nicole Mercurio (Wakefield, MA/Wakefield), top-seed Lesley University (28-10) captured its fifth straight league title and fourth consecutive New England Collegiate Conference Championship with an 11-3 win over No. 3 Daniel Webster College (23-19).
The sophomore left fielder went 3-for-3 with a home run, three RBI's and two runs scored, capping a phenomenal tournament in which she went 6-for-10 with three home runs, nine RBI's and four runs scored in Lesley's three straight wins. She homered and drove in three in all three games.
Fellow All-Tournament Team honoree Cassandra Knox (Sea Cliff, NY/North Shore) picked up the win, overcoming six walks in her five innings, striking out two for her 10th win of the year.
The senior right-hander was backed by an offense that pounded 12 hits and scored in all five innings. Like Mercurio, leadoff hitter Emily Mangiaratti (Amherst, MA/Amherst) scored twice and drove in three runs, going 3-for-4 with a three-run triple, and All-Tournament Team third base player Jenna Fralick (Woburn, MA/Woburn) went 2-for-3 and scored twice, as did right fielder Maria Nazzaro (North Reading, MA/St. Mary's).
Knox found herself in trouble with two outs in the first, when a walk and a bloop single to right landed Eagles at the corners. A pitch in the dirt got away from catcher Allison Fountain, but the Lynx backstop recovered and tagged opposing catcher Lauren Chesnulevich breaking down the third base line.
When Lesley put two runners aboard with two outs in the first, unlike Knox, Eagles starter Sarah Durocher (Keene, NH/Keene) wouldn't be so fortunate as to escape untouched. Fountain was hit by a pitch and Gabrielle Brixey (Coalinga, CA/West Hills CC) singled to center, bringing up Mercurio, who homered in each of the Lynx tournament wins on Friday.
The reigning NECC Player of the Week landed a fly ball on the top of the fence that bounced over to put Lesley in front 3-0 with her fifth home run in seven games, lifting the Lynx to a 3-0 lead.
After a shutdown inning from Knox, Nazzaro led off the second with an opposite-field single and raced around from second to score when Fralick got trapped in a hot box. An inning later, Knox walked the bases loaded for cleanup batter Samantha Hill (Hudson, NH/Alvirne), who flew out to Nazzaro in foul territory, leaving the score 4-0 in the middle of the third.
For the third time in as many innings, Lesley scored with two outs, this time with Mercurio lining a single to center and scoring on a Molly Sarson (Sanford, ME/Sanford) double to the wall in left. Two Eagles errors led to two more Lynx crossing in the fourth, as a pair scored on a Heather Strong throwing error that allowed Lesley go ahead 7-0.
Strong atoned for her error with some timely hitting in the fifth that delivered Daniel Webster's only RBI's of the day. With the bases loaded and two outs, the freshman sliced a sinking line drive down the line in right, which eluded a diving Nazzaro and rolled into the corner to clear the bases and score three.
The Lynx followed suit, answering with a bases-loaded, two-out triple, this to left-center off the bat of Mangiaratti. The junior designated player then scored the game-ending run on an Eagles throwing error a batter later, handing Lesley its fourth consecutive conference title and fifth straight overall.
For the Daniel Webster, All-Tournament Team representative Strong went 2-for-3 with three RBI's, and Hill went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. Chesnulevich (Hudson, NH/Alvirne), meanwhile, reached via walk in all three of her plate appearances.
Back in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, Lesley awaits its 2012 opponent and site, both of which will be released on Monday.
The 2012 NECC All-Tournament Team is listed below:
2012 NECC All-Tournament Team
Elms Sr. P Courtney Hampton(Westfield, MA)
Elms Sr. 2B Jennifer Killion (Cambridge, MA)
Mitchell P Tricia Tomaselli (Guilford, CT)
Mitchell OF Lindsay Romagnino (Totowa, NJ)
Daniel Webster P Amanda Wilson (Merrimack, NH)
Daniel Webster C Lauren Chesnulevich (Hudson, NH)
Daniel Webster SS Heather Strong (Palmer, MA)
Lesley 3B Jenna Fralick (Woburn, MA)
Lesley P Cassandra Knox (Sea Cliff, NY)
2012 NECC Tournament Most Valuable Player
Lesley LF Nicole Mercurio (Wakefield, MA)