CLERMONT, Fla. – After a tough Friday, the Merrimack softball team bounced back with two big wins on Saturday, as the Warriors edged Kutztown, 2-1, in the morning before rounding out the day with a thrilling 3-2 victory against Shippensburg to sandwich an 11-0 setback to Tufts at Hancock Park in Clermont, Fla.
Now standing at 3-5 during their 10-game stint in Florida and 3-7 on the year, Merrimack will enjoy a much-deserved off day on Sunday before rounding out its trip in the Sunshine State with two final games on Monday (March 25). The Warriors will take on Union (11 a.m.) and Buena Vista (1 p.m.) before returning home to the Bay State.
"I thought we showed great determination and dedication in competing in six games in 24 hours," head coach Jim Cardello mentioned afterward. "The marathon culminated with two more gutsy wins against some very good teams thanks to a total team effort. We got stellar pitching across the board, and some important and timely hitting. We'll enjoy our day off tomorrow and look to wrap things up with two more wins Monday."
A pair of solo home runs was all that Merrimack would need, as the Warriors swept both of their Florida games against Kutztown with a 2-1, Saturday morning win to start day three in the Sunshine State.
Senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) and junior Jaclyn Giovannini (Plano, Texas) each connected with a pair of solo shots, and that was more than enough for sophomore pitcher Valerie Bauer (Salem, N.H.) who allowed just one earned run for the complete game win.
The two homers were Merrimack's second and third bombs of the year as a team, and first for each player. Palmieri's came in the bottom of the first to break a scoreless draw, and two innings later it was Giovannini connecting for her first long ball of the year to push the Warriors ahead by two.
Bauer, meanwhile, was brilliant throughout her second start of the season. The sophomore righty kept Kutztown off the board through five innings until the Golden Bears eventually broke through with a solo shot in the top of the sixth.
That would be the closest Kutztown would pull to within, as the Warriors wrapped up their morning with a one-run win.
Merrimack was unable to continue its momentum from the morning's victory, falling to Tufts, 11-0, in a mercy rule-shortened decision.
The Jumbos (12-1) bounced out to an early four-run lead, scoring four times in the bottom of the first while capitalizing on four Merrimack miscues and an eventual two-RBI single to highlight the inning.
The Warriors' best scoring chances came in the top of the third. Sophomore Stephanie Lapierre (Berlin, Conn.) ripped a double into the left-center field gap, but junior Allison Berthiaume (Berkley, Mass.) was gunned down at the plate at the tail end of the play, keeping the Navy and Gold off the board.
Tufts would continue to pile on the runs before eventually clinching the five-inning mercy rule decision.
Trailing by a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, Merrimack exploded for two huge runs thanks to a game-changing homer off the bat of Giovannini – her second of the day, nonetheless –as the Warriors rounded out Saturday with a confidence-building, 3-2 win over a Shippensburg side that they fell to in extra innings the day before, closing the afternoon with two wins in three tries.
Down by a run, 2-1, with one out and a runner on, Giovannini connected on the first pitch she saw and drilled it over the left field fence, scoring herself and Palmieri to push the Navy and Gold ahead by a run.
Then, with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, freshman Alexis Perry (Westford, Vt.) – the game three starter, nonetheless – reentered the contest in relief of Deardorff, who was in line for the win.
Staring at a bases-loaded, one-out situation, Perry calmly induced back-to-back groundouts, including a fielder's choice play at home before a game-ending grounder to short to seal the Warriors' third one-run win of the season.
For her efforts, Perry (2-2/3 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs) lay claim to her second save of the week, while Deardorff (2-1/3 innings, 0 earned runs, 2 strikeouts, 2 walks) notched her first win of the year in the process. Thomas also chipped in two innings, allowing a run on two hits.
Shippensburg's Makenzie Lynn took the loss, lasting six innings while surrendering three runs – two earned – on six hits while striking out 11 and walking just one.
Merrimack edged ahead by a run after a Palmieri RBI base hit in the bottom of the third drove home junior Ashley Perry (Winchendon, Mass.).
Following a scoreless fourth, the Raiders went ahead, 2-1, with a two-spot in the top of the fifth. Taylor Weisman connected for an RBI single with one out before the go-ahead later scored after the inning was prolonged by a Merrimack error.
Undeterred by the deficit, the Warriors came through when it mattered most, as Giovannini's clutch day continued by means of her second bomb of the afternoon, one that proved to be the difference in the contest.