WESTON, Mass. - Junior Alexa Nejaime (Sandisfield, Mass.) hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth inning as the third-seeded Regis (Mass.) softball team came from behind to beat #6 Elms 5-4 in the First Round of the New England Collegiate Conference Tournament on Tuesday night at Regis Field.
With the win, the Pride moves to 16-11 on the season and advances to the double elimination final four in the NECC Tournament, with their first matchup coming against #2 Lesley. The Blazers see their season come to an end at a mark of 13-19.
The Blazers opened the scoring in the top of the second inning, when junior Elizabeth Olszewski (Canterbury, Conn.) got all of a Madi McLellan (Fremont, N.H.) fastball, sending a shot over the right center field fence for a 1-0 Blazer lead.
The lead was short-lived for the Blazers, as the Pride evened the score in the bottom of the inning. Two batter after a lined shot nearly left the yard off the bat of Regis freshman Ellery Rasmussen (Kingston, N.H.) for a double, sophomore Lisa Lusardi (Enfield, Conn.) reached on an error by the Elms left fielder, scoring Rasmussen to bring the score to 1-1.
The score was still 1-1 when Olszewski stepped to the plate in the top of the fourth, and the junior changed that with one swing. Olszewski turned on a McLellan offering, sending a two-run shot over the left field wall, giving the Blazers a 3-1 lead. The performance was Olszewski's second career two-home run game, the other coming last season in a win over Southern Vermont.
Lusardi again had an answer in the bottom of the inning for the Pride. After Rasmussen again led off the inning with a wall ball double, Lusardi roped a two-out double up the middle to bring home pinch runner Gabrielle Cammarata (Revere, Mass.) to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Elms threated to all but put it away in the top of the seventh inning, as the Blazers loaded the bases with nobody out. McLellan forced sophomore Erin O'Donnell (Glenmont, N.Y.) to ground into a 1-2-3 double play for the first two outs before getting senior Kacey Gifford to pop out to short to end the threat.
Now with all the momentum, the Pride needed just one run to tie in the bottom of the inning, and would get it. After Lusardi reached on an error by the Elms third baseman to lead off the inning, pinch runner Rachel Tortora (Malden, Mass.) advanced to second on a Jenna Casello (Westborough, Mass.) sacrifice bunt and to third on a passed ball. With two outs in the inning, lead off hitter Brianna Napoleone (Medford, Mass.) lined one up the middle to tie the game at three and send the game into extra innings.
Again the Blazers loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the eighth, but were only able to get one run across the plate. Sophomore Jeszy McGuire (Brimfield, Mass.) singled to left field to give the Blazers a 4-3 lead with no outs, but McLellan escaped otherwise unscathed, retiring the next three batters.
After sophomore Kelsey Grimard (Pelham, N.H.) was placed on second base, pinch hitter Allie Petillo (West Sayville, N.Y.) laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance her to third with just one out in the inning. Rasmussen was intentionally walked to put runners on the corners, before senior Allison Caloggero (Medford, Mass.) tied the game with an RBI single to left field. After Rasmussen and Caloggero advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, Nejaime hit a grounder to second base, but Rasmussen slid under the tag on the throw home to give the Pride the thrilling walk-off win.
Senior Tessa Cote (Granby, Mass.) got the loss in her final collegiate game for the Blazers allowing two earned runs on nine hits while striking out two over 7.1 innings to fall to 8-13 on the season. McLellan (11-7) got the win for the Pride, throwing eight innings, allowing three earned on 12 hits while striking out five.