SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Merrimack softball team held a late lead in game two, but LIU Post stormed ahead by means of a nine-run sixth inning, helping the Pioneers sweep the Warriors in a doubleheader on Friday afternoon at Conaty Park in Smithfield, R.I.
Forced to move its scheduled home game on campus to Bryant University due to field conditions, the Warriors (5-9) dropped the opening game, 3-1, after managing six hits and one run on offense before losing a two-run lead in the sixth inning of the late game, as the Pioneers (14-5) held on for a 12-5 win in game two to sweep all three games played between the two schools this year.
The Warriors will open up Northeast-10 Conference action this Monday, April 1, traveling to nearby rival UMass Lowell for a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.
"Obviously it's disappointing to come down here and not get a win," head coach Jim Cardello said afterward. "We fought hard in both games, but we had some bad lapses at a time that we couldn't afford to, and that cost us the second game after dropping a tough one in the opening game. We'll just have to practice harder and be ready for two very important conference games Monday."
Down by three early on, the Warriors fought back to make it a two-run deficit with a run in the third, but eight stranded base runners and a six-hit performance on offense came back to haunt Merrimack en route to a 3-1 defeat in the opening game Friday against LIU Post.
Senior Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.) took the tough loss and fell to 2-3 on the year after yielding three earns runs while striking out two and walking two. LIU's Liz Weber moved to 7-4 with a nine-strikeout performance, while Quincy Lewis notched the save after coming in to close the door with the Warriors threatening in the bottom of the seventh.
The Pioneers edged ahead with a run in the top of the second, as Kelsey McLaughlin doubled down the left field line to score the first run of the game.
An inning later, LIU Post plated two more back-to-back doubles from Paige Santek and McLaughlin, giving the visitors a 3-0 cushion in the early goings.
Merrimack's offense responded with a run in the bottom of the third, as sophomore Lindsay Gibbs (Acton, Mass.) crossed the plate on the tail end of an obstruction play. The inning looked promising for the Warriors, as a walk and another single loaded the bases, but Weber struck out a batter and induced a groundout to get out of the jam.
That would be it as far as either side's offense was concerned, as the Warriors threatened again in the bottom of the seventh with the tying run on base, but Quincy entered the game and nailed down her second save of the year to lock up the 3-1 decision for the Pioneers.
After a pitcher's duel went in favor of the visitors in game one, Merrimack hopped ahead to an early lead and looked to be in control with a two-run cushion (5-3) in the top of the sixth, but the Pioneer offense exploded for nine runs to earn the doubleheader sweep with a 12-5 win in the late game.
Both sides combined for 23 hits, as LIU Post out-slugged the Warriors, 14-9, in the hit department while benefitting from three Merrimack miscues. Second baseman Maria Palmeri hit safely in all five at-bats, while Nicole Hagenah also posted four hits for the Pioneers.
Merrimack was led by a trio of three-hit performers, including senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.), Gibbs, and junior Nicole LoPilato (Medford, Mass.), but the Warriors would not score any runs beyond the fourth inning en route to the setback.
Lewis picked up her first win of the year for the Pioneers after becoming the pitcher of record in the sixth. The righty lasted four innings and struck out five while walking one and allowing no runs.
Freshman Alexis Perry (Westford, Vt.) was pulled with the score tied at 5-5 during LIU's nine-run sixth before senior Alie Thomas (Bedford, N.H.) took the tough-luck loss despite all four of her runs allowed being unearned.
Down by a run in the bottom of the first, Gibbs blasted an RBI double to tie the game before scoring later in the inning, as the Warriors went ahead, 2-1, after one.
The Pioneers responded to tie the game in the top of the second, but that deadlock didn't last, as a single through the right side off the bat of Palmieri moved Merrimack back on top, 3-1, after two innings.
LIU Post pulled to within one with a two-spot in the top of the fourth, but the Warriors again responded with another pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 5-3 lead into the fifth inning.
But following a scoreless frame, LIU Post blasted six hits and capitalized on two errors while scoring nine runs in the sixth, and that proved to be the difference, as the Warriors never recovered from the big inning and remained behind by seven the rest of the way.