CLERMONT, Fla. – The Merrimack softball team exploded for 19 combined runs over a two-game span, and that offensive output was enough to lead the Warriors to a doubleheader sweep against Union (10-2) and Buena Vista (9-7) on Monday afternoon at the National Training Center in Clermont, Fla.
Wrapping up their stay in Florida 5-5 while improving to 5-7 on the year, the Warriors will return back to Massachusetts and open up Northeast-10 Conference action this week, starting with a Wednesday (March 27) tilt at home against UMass Lowell. First pitch of a scheduled doubleheader is set for 3 p.m.
Backed by a pair of home runs from junior Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) and senior Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.), Merrimack cruised to a 10-2, five-inning mercy rule victory over Union to open up their Monday morning slate in Florida.
Merrimack piled on the runs early and often, jumping out to a nine-run lead with three runs in the first and six an inning later, as the Dutchmen (2-5) would only tally their only two runs in the fourth before Merrimack sealed the mercy rule-shortened win with one last score in the top of the fifth.
Deardorff enjoyed a relatively easy outing en route to her second win of the season (2-2). The righty struck out seven and walked just three while working around four hits and two earned runs over a five-inning span. Union starter Sarah Logan (1-1) lasted just 1 1/3 innings, yielding all nine earned runs while striking out two and walking one before Allyson Staats closed out the ensuing 3 2/3 innings.
The Warriors totaled a season-high 12 hits and 10 runs in the victory with eight out of the nine starters recording at least one hit. Both Deardorff and Perry tallied two hits, while junior Jaclyn Giovannini (Plano, Texas) and Perry both drove in three runs apiece.
Merrimack hopped in front in the first after Perry pushed in the first run on an RBI single. Later in the frame, senior Stephanie Lapierre (Berlin, Conn.) ripped a base hit to right field, driving in Deardorff and Perry to give the Warriors a 3-0 cushion.
An inning later, the Warriors exploded for six runs, chasing Logan only one out into the inning. Giovannini cleared the bases with a three-RBI double down the right field line, doubling Merrimack's advantage to 6-0. A batter later, Perry got a hold of a 2-2 pitch and drove it over the right-center field wall, running up the lead to 8-0. Finally, Deardorff trotted around the bases after an in-the-park solo shot that ricocheted off the right field wall, putting Merrimack on top, 9-0, after an inning and a half.
Union would finally get to Deardorff for two runs in the bottom of the fourth, but that would be all the senior would surrender. Merrimack clinched the mercy rule with one more run in the top of the fifth before holding Union off the board in the home half of the inning en route to locking up the eight-run victory.
After falling behind early by five, the Warriors exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the third, and that proved to be the difference, as Merrimack prevailed, 9-7, against Buena Vista in its final game in Florida on Monday afternoon.
Despite the early deficit and three errors, the Warriors slugged out 12 hits in the late game, guided by a three-hit performance from sophomore Lindsay Gibbs (Acton, Mass.) while three others posted two-hit games.
That offense culminated with seven hits and all but one of the nine runs coming in the bottom of the third, as the Beavers (4-4) saw their five-run lead evaporate into a three-run deficit after three innings of play. Following a scoreless fourth, Buena Vista made it a one-run game (8-7) with two in the top of the fifth, but the Warriors pushed across an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth before prevailing by two.
After posting a run in the top of the second, Buena Vista got to senior Alie Thomas (Bedford, N.H.) in the third. That prompted the entrance of sophomore Valerie Bauer (Salem, N.H.), who staunched the damage before getting out of the third with the Warriors behind by five.
Undeterred by the deficit, Merrimack's offense put up a whopping eight runs in the bottom of the third. Senior Curran Hubbard (Laconia, N.H.) started the rally with an RBI single to get on the board. Lapierre followed with a run-scoring base hit as well, and moments later Gibbs connected with a huge two-RBI double to center, cutting the deficit down to 5-4.
The Warriors then took the lead on a two-base error that allowed the inning to continue. Ahead by a run, junior Nicole LoPilato (Medford, Mass.) and Giovannini would add to the damage with two more RBI singles before the inning ended, as Merrimack took an 8-5 lead into the fourth inning.
Buena Vista would pull to within a run, as a two-run blast off the bat of Hannah Baker sliced the lead to 8-7 in the top of the fifth, but Bauer and freshman Alexis Perry (Westford, Vt.) hung tough down the stretch, as the former picked up her second win of the year while the latter tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings in another solid outing for the rookie pitcher.
Merrimack added one final run in the bottom of the sixth, as Giovannini doubled in another run to make it 9-7. Then in the top of the seventh, Alexis Perry promptly retired the side in order to wrap up the win.