BROOKHAVEN, N.Y.- The Merrimack softball team needed just one run to top Southern Connecticut State Saturday afternoon at Dowling College in the NCAA Tournament East Region 1. The Warriors advance to the NCAA Tournament East Region 1 Final Sunday as they improved to 30-20 overall. The Owls dropped to 33-20 on the season.
Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.) tossed her second-consecutive complete game of the NCAA Tournament with a seven-inning shutout. Deardorff racked up four strikeouts on the day to improve to 22-13 in the pitcher's circle.
Southern Connecticut loaded the bases in the first and second innings but Deardorff buckled down and escaped unscathed.
In the fourth, Jamie Millett (Hudson, Mass.) led off the inning with her first of two hits in the game, a single up the middle. Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) followed with a double off the left field fence to advance Millett to third. Monique Gosselin (Lawrence, Mass.) drove in the Warriors' lone run with a sacrifice fly to right field to score Millett.
The Owls got two base runners on in the bottom of the seventh with one out. Deardorff rebounded with a critical strikeout for the second out of the frame. Southern Connecticut's fifth batter of the inning put a hard ground ball into play. Merrimack's second baseman Ashley Perry (Winchendon, Mass.) got in front of the ball to knock it down then calmly flipped it to Jaclyn Giovannini (Plano, Texas) covering first to finish the game.
"Our team did a great job today of staying focus and making plays," said head coach Elaine Schwager. "KJ pitched with a great amount of confidence today and our defense played fantastic. Our team battled when they got into a tight spot. This is a great accomplishment to get here and this team has earned every bit of it."
The Warriors will take on the winner of Saturday's third game, an elimination game between Southern Connecticut State and the winner of Dowling and Dominican, Sunday afternoon.