ATTLEBORO, Mass. - The Newbury Nighthawks, following their best season in program history at 23-17 (16-2 NECC), have been voted second in the softball preseason poll as determined by the New England Collegiate Conference coaches and announced by the NECC Office on Friday.
The Nighthawks finished runner-up for the second time in program history following a winner-take-all Championship Game against Lesley. Their 16-2 record was best in the conference, resulting in the first Regular Season Championship in program history.
Junior preseason Fastpitch News All-American Noelle Sass (Randolph, Mass.) returns for her third season as a Nighthawk. The dominate hitter in the Nighthawks lineup finished last season with nine home runs while hitting .448. Sophomore Arianna Gooden (Bakersfield, Calif.), the reigning NECC Rookie of the Year, looks to build on her successful first season in which she batted .379 and led the Nighthawks with 53 hits.
The top of the Nighthawks pitching rotation remains the same with junior Alina Milauskas (Elkridge, Md.) and sophomore Mallory Stefan (Thornton, Colo.) returning for the Nighthawks. Milauskas was an NECC Second-Team member last season while Stefan was named to the NECC Third Team.
The defending champions; the Lesley Lynx won the narrow vote to repeat as champions in 2018. The Lynx finished with 60 points and four out of nine possible first-place nods. Lesley returns six starters, including three 2017 First-Team All-NECC selections, senior second baseman Courtney Goggin, senior outfielder Therese Pereira and junior first baseman Jordan Raab. Goggin batted .331 for the Lynx. Pereira batted .361, and is a threat on the bases, with 13 stolen bases in 2017.
The Nighthawks amassed 57 points, including three first-place tallies to finish second in the voting.
Landing in third place with 48 points and one first-place selection is Becker College. The Hawks return pitcher Samantha Lee, a Second-Team All-NECC selection a season ago. Lee was second in the conference with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 103 batters in 135.2 innings pitched.
The final first-place vote went to Elms College, who finished with 43 points to land in fourth place. The Blazers return eight starters, among them junior Erin O'Donnell, who was a First-Team All-NECC pick at the designated player spot in 2017. O'Donnell tallied 29 RBIs while batting .419 for Elms.
Bay Path University finished in fifth place with 37 points. Bay Path returns the 2017 NECC Player of the Year, Lauren Vallee. The senior shortstop led the conference in batting average (.565), hits (65), and home runs (11). Along with Sass, Vallee was named to the 2018 Fastpitch Nation Division III Preseason All-American team.
Closing out the polls is Dean College with 31 points, Mitchell College with 25 points, Southern Vermont College with 13 points, and Wheelock College with 10 points.
Portions of this release courtesy the NECC Office.