BEVERLY, Mass. — Melissa Sprague (Londonderry, N.H.) tossed a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts for the University of New England in the opener of a 6-1 and 7-6 doubleheader sweep of Endicott College in Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) softball action Friday afternoon at the EC Softball Complex.
The Nor’easters (7-5, 3-1 CCC) took the regular-season pair from the Gulls (4-10, 0-4 CCC) for the second time in as many years — just the third occasion for UNE against 11 similar results going the other direction.
Sprague’s effort in GAME 1 was the first one-hit performance by a Big Blue hurler in a seven-inning contest since 2010. The sophomore entered the week ranked fifth in Division III in strikeouts per seven innings (11.7), and added to that pace with UNE’s fourth-highest game total in at least 22 seasons.
Lauren Gerhard (Merrimack, N.H.) opened the scoring for the Nor’easters in the top of the 4th, sending around Caroline Schoenbucher (Barrington, N.H.) for the first of her three runs.
Endicott answered right back in the bottom of the frame with its lone hit — a solo shot by Jamie Hopgood.
UNE grabbed the lead for good in the 6th, plating three prior to the initial out. Schoenbucher singled and stole second before Andrea Gosper (Wyoming, R.I.) supplied an RBI-double. Gerhard followed with a two-run blast to make it 4-1.
Sprague put two aboard in the last half of the 6th, by way of a walk and hit-by-pitch, but fanned the next two batters to preserve the cushion.
With one down in the 7th, Sydney Helmbrecht (Grand Rapids, Minn.) and Schoenbucher laced back-to-back doubles to tack another run on the board, and an error later capped the scoring.
Joining Schoenbucher and Gerhard with a pair of base knocks for the Nor’easters was Helmbrecht and Bailey Tremblay (Saco, Maine).
Laura Somerville took the loss in the circle for the Gulls.
Gerhard’s bat again produced the first run when GAME 2 got underway, driving in Schoenbucher for the go-ahead tally in the 1st. Schoenbucher had reached with the first of three hits in the nightcap, extending her hitting streak to nine outings.
Two errors began what turned into a four-run 2nd inning for UNE — all after the first out. Helmbrecht notched an RBI-single not long before Schoenbucher plated two with double.
Endicott got one back as the 2nd continued, with Chrissy Gikas singling-in Olivia Odermatt. The 5-1 margin held until the bottom of the 4th, when Odermatt eventually scored on a wild pitch after the first of her two hits. In the 5th, Margaret Martzolf’s second hit of the game made it 5-3, as the connection for the home squad cleared the outfield fence.
It remained a two-run match into the 7th, which Schoenbucher started with a single. The very next pitch, to Gosper, was launched to straightaway center, upping the UNE advantage to 7-3. During the afternoon, the home runs by Gerhard and Gosper were UNE’s first of 2017.
The Gulls pushed their last-chance to the limit to pressure the visitors. The first two batters reached safely before two outs, and both runners moved up one base on a wild pitch. Hayley Arduini then stepped in and sliced the deficit in half (7-5) with a double, which Odermatt matched on the ensuing play to bring Endicott even closer. But UNE reliever Sydnee Bessler (Everett, Mass.) fielded the game-ending grounder herself to halt the comeback attempt and secure the save.
Bessler struck out four over three innings of work following the Nor’easters’ winning pitcher, Sophia Burnham (Scarborough, Maine), who kept the hosts in-check through four.
Rylie Strong was charged with the setback for EC, giving up just three earned runs in 6-plus frames.