NEWPORT, R.I. -- Freshman Nikki Vanelli’s (Quakertown, Pa.) two-out, two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted Salve Regina to a 4-3 opening game victory over UMass Dartmouth in a sweep of a non-league college softball doubleheader Thursday afternoon at Toppa Field. The host Seahawks overcame a four-run fourth inning deficit in the nightcap to notch a 6-5 second game triumph.
Senior Holly Kathios (Pelham, N.H.) staked Salve Regina (10-11) to a 2-0 fourth inning lead in the opener with a two-run double, but the visiting Corsairs (11-13) erased that deficit by scoring three times in the top of the fifth. Freshman Rachel Pereira (Dartmouth, Mass.) laced an RBI single before tying the game on sophomore Kylie Fletcher’s (Dighton, Mass.) ensuing triple, and UMass Dartmouth capped the rally when Fletcher scored on a fielder’s choice. That score held up until the bottom of the seventh when a two-out error opened the door for Vanelli, who provided the walk-off heroics for Salve Regina
Sophomore Julia Coute (North Dighton, Mass.) picked up the win in relief after allowing one hit in 2 2/3 innings of work for the hosts, who mustered only four hits in the first outing. Fletcher added a double to go with her three-bagger in the opening setback for the Corsairs, who received two hits from Pereira as part of a six-hit attack. Sophomore Jill Richards (Kingston, Mass.) suffered the tough-luck decision inside the circle for UMass Dartmouth, as she struck out four in going the distance.
Richards gave the Corsairs a 1-0 lead in their first at-bat when she scored on an error, but senior Amanda Riley’s (Barrington, N.H.) RBI single in the bottom of the frame evened matters for Salve Regina. Sophomore Leah Major (Fairhaven, Mass.) restored UMass Dartmouth’s edge with a run-scoring triple and came home on junior Cierra Sheerin’s (Bridgewater, Mass.) ensuing RBI single, and the visitors extended that margin to 5-1 in the top of the fourth on freshman Averi Soares’ (New Bedford, Mass.) sacrifice fly and a throwing error.
Vanelli pulled the Seahawks to within a pair in the bottom of the inning with a two-run double, and the hosts’ evened matters in the fifth on senior Megan Guest’s (Meriden, Conn.) two-run single before junior Maddie Machado (Westport, Mass.) scored the deciding run in the sixth on an error. Soares drew a lead-off walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice to put the tying run in scoring position for the Corsairs in the seventh, but Salve Regina escaped the frame to complete the sweep.
Guest and junior Allie Gusmano (Orange, Conn.) each had two hits as part of an eight-hit nightcap attack for the Seahawks, as sophomore Andi Nelson (Candia, N.H.) earned her eighth win of the spring with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief that featured a strikeout. Soares was on base three times as part of a five-hit second game performance for UMass Dartmouth, as freshman Anna Kerwood (Florence, Mass.) allowed an unearned run to suffer the tough-luck setback inside the circle for the Corsairs.
UMass Dartmouth heads to Providence, R.I. on Saturday afternoon to take on Rhode Island College in a Little East Conference doubleheader beginning at Noon, while Salve Regina hosts Gordon in a Commonwealth Coast Conference twinbill on Saturday afternoon at Toppa Field that also begins at Noon.
(Photo Credit: Lyrik Gelmete '21)