NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Two seasons removed from a trip to the NCAA Super Regionals, the Merrimack softball team, guided by first-year head coach Jim Cardello, officially kicks off the 2013 season with the start of preseason camp on Tuesday.
After posting a 31-23 overall mark two springs ago during a season that included an appearance in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship Finals, as well as a trip to the Super Regionals, the Warriors will be looking to improve upon last year's 19-23 campaign.
But bolstered by the return of four of the top five offensive players, as well as one of the top pitchers in recent program history, Merrimack appears primed to bounce back.
Senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) represents the top returning offensive player, as the infielder ranked second on the squad – and first among all starters – with a .371 average to compliment her side-high 50 hits and 40 runs scored. Palmieri, a Daktronics All-Region Second Team and All-Conference NE-10 First Team honoree in 2011, also smashed a team-high eight doubles, two triples, and posted a team-best 12 home runs while driving in 20 RBI, as well.
The duo of juniors Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) and Jaclyn Giovannini (Plano, Texas) will also be relied upon early and often to lead the team. Perry, an All-Conference NE-10 Rookie Team member in 2011, posted an impressive .307 average while adding 10 runs scored and six homers during her sophomore campaign. Giovannini, meanwhile, ranked fifth on the squad with a .300 average at the plate, posting 27 hits in 90 at-bats one year removed from earning NFCA All-Region Second Team honors as a freshman.
The Warriors can certainly feel confident behind the dominant arm of 2011 NE-10 Pitcher of the Year Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.), who once again was the top hurler in 2012. The Bedford, Mass., native is coming off an 11-9 capaign that saw her post a 3.34 ERA, one shutout and a team-high 11 complete games. The senior right-hander also led the Navy and Gold with 100 strikeouts while walking just 67, and held opponents to a .261 average over 142.2 innings.
Merrimack has nearly two months of preparation ahead of itself before beginning the year with two doubleheader road trips at NE-10 foes Adelphi (March 3) and Saint Rose (March 16); the Warriors' first conference-division matchup falls on March 19 at UMass-Lowell, just ahead of the team's trip to Florida from March 21-25.
Finally, Merrimack returns home to host the River Hawks in the 2013 home opener on Wednesday, March 27.