NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.- The Merrimack softball team earned a doubleheader split with Bentley Tuesday afternoon at Warrior Diamond. The Warriors progress to 24-15 on the season with a 19-7 mark in the Northeast-10 Conference. The Falcons move to 14-20 overall and 7-17 in the league.
With its 19th victory of the season, Merrimack remains in sole possession of first place the Northeast-10 standings. If the Warriors win the final four games of the season, road games at Adelphi and Pace, then Merrimack will capture its first Northeast-10 regular season crown since 2002. Three wins by the Warriors will ensure at least a share of the regular season title, pending results by Assumption, Southern Connecticut and Adelphi.
Jaclyn Giovannini (Plano, Texas) led Merrimack with three hits on the day, including a two-run homer. Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) drove in three runs on the afternoon while Kara Melillo (North Andover, Mass.) recorded a pair of RBIs.
Bentley grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the second in game one. Jackie Gauthier plated two runs with a bases-loaded double down the left field line.
The Warriors knotted the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth. With all three bases occupied, Melillo laced the first pitch she saw to right center to drive in Palmieri and Monique Gosselin (Lawrence, Mass.).
The Falcons scored their third run of the contest on a wild pitch in the top of the fifth to take a 3-2 advantage.
Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.) tossed 4.2 innings in game one for the Warriors, striking out three batters. Curran Hubbard (Laconia, N.H.) pitched the final 2.1 innings, surrendering no hits and no runs while registering a pair of strikeouts.
In the nightcap, Merrimack erupted for five runs in the home half of the third. Kristen LeMay (Shrewsbury, Mass.) led off the frame with a single followed by a walk issued to Millett. Palmieri cleared the bases with a three-run homer to left field. Alex Gallant (Salem, N.H.) drove in the fourth run of the inning with a single through the left side. Giovannini capped off the scoring in the third as she motored home on a fielding error by the Falcons' pitcher.
Bentley notched a run in the top of the fourth as Kelly Sanborn pushed across the visitors' first run of the game with a single.
Gosselin drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the fourth and Giovannini blasted a two-run bomb over the fence in centerfield to increase Merrimack's lead to six, 7-1.
The Warriors added two runs in the fifth to claim a 9-1 win. With runners on first and second, Millett singled to left field to score Ashley Perry (Winchendon, Mass.). Jessica Fugazzotto (Newton, Mass.) scampered home on a throwing error on the play to end the game.
Alie Thomas (Bedford, N.H.) hurled a complete game to earn her fourth win of the year. Thomas allowed one run on four hits while fanning two.
"Our team battled back after a tough loss in game one. Our offense emerged in the third inning of game two which played a huge role in the win," said head coach Elaine Schwager. "We need to put forth our best effort every game from here on out in order to accomplish big things."
Between games, the Merrimack softball program recognized its three members of the class of 2011: LeMay, Millett and Melillo.