The NECC Softball Championship: DESPITE LOSS IN FINAL, EAGLES HOLD HEADS HIGH
Wellesley, Mass. - The most surprising and remarkable season in Daniel Webster softball history came to a close on Saturday as the third-seeded Eagles once again upset second-seeded Mitchell in the semifinal round but again fell short to Lesley, 11-3 in the tournament final on the campus of Wellesley College.
The Eagles, who posted just a 7-18 mark a year ago and were picked to place eighth in the NECC preseason coaches' poll back in early March, finished with a program-record 23-19 overall mark and reached the finals of a conference tournament for the first time. The Eagles' best previous season was a 19-win campaign in 2009 that saw the squad reach the final three of the NECC tourney.
In the opening semifinal, all-tourney selection Lauren Chesnulevich (Hudson, NH) led DWC with a run scored and one RBI, and Amy Waller (Berlin, MA) tripled and scored for the Eagles, which got a sparkling performance from all-tourney starter Amanda Wilson (Merrimack, NH). The senior struck out six in her complete game, scattering seven hits and allowing only an unearned run.
Dylan Riccardi (Elmont, NY) went 2-for-3 for the Mariners, leading off the seventh inning with a double but Mitchell could not get the tying run home. Lindsay Romagnino (Totowa, NJ) also went 2-for-3 in the loss.
The Eagles tallied three hits in the first on Mitchell starter Tricia Tomaselli (Guilford, CT), including a leadoff triple by Waller that saw the second baseman thrown out at home, but came away scoreless after stranding runners at the corners. Mitchell wasted no time taking advantage, with leadoff hitter Tiffany Person (Waterbury, CT) beating out a bunt single, advancing to third on a two-base throwing error and scoring on a sacrifice fly.
The 1-0 lead held until the third, when Waller led off with a walk and scored on a Chesnulevich double to left. The Eagles catcher then came around on a Chelsea Crawford (Westfield, MA) single through the left side to take a 2-1 lead that held for the rest of the game.
Riccardi led off the seventh with a double to right and was lifted for pinch runner Shane'l Blount, who was sacrificed to third. With two outs and Blount on third, Person grounded to the hole on the right side, where Waller dove to her left and threw from her knees to beat a the speedy Person and send the Eagles to the championship.
The clock struck midnight for the Cinderella Eagles in the final as the Lynx (28-10), led yet again by NECC Tournament MVP Nicole Mercurio (Wakefield, MA), captured its fifth straight league title and fourth consecutive NECC crown.
The sophomore left fielder went 3-for-3 with a home run, three RBI's and two runs scored. Cassandra Knox (Sea Cliff, NY) picked up the win, overcoming six walks in her five innings, striking out two .
Emily Mangiaratti (Amherst, MA) scored twice and drove in three runs, going 3-for-4 with a three-run triple, and Jenna Fralick (Woburn, MA) went 2-for-3 and scored twice, as did Maria Nazzaro (North Reading, MA).
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 Chesnulevich breaking down the third base line.
When Lesley put two runners aboard with two outs in the first, unlike Knox, Eagle starter Sarah Durocher (Keene, NH) wouldn't be so fortunate as to escape untouched. Fountain was hit by a pitch and Gabrielle Brixey (Coalinga, CA) singled, bringing up Mercurio, who landed a fly ball on the top of the fence that bounced over to put Lesley in front 3-0.
Nazzaro led off the second with an opposite-field single and raced around from second when Fralick got trapped in a hot box.
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) double to the wall in left. Two Eagles errors led to two more Lynx crossing in the fourth, as a pair scored on a throwing error that allowed Lesley go ahead 7-0.
All-tourney selection Heather Strong (Palmer, Mass.) posted some timely hitting in the fifth that delivered Daniel Webster's only RBI 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 then scored the game-ending run on an Eagle 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), meanwhile, reached via walk in all three of her plate appearances.
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)