NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Southern New Hampshire scored six of its seven runs in the top of the second, and that proved to be the difference in the game, as the Merrimack softball team rallied with four out of the game's final five runs but ultimately fell, 7-5, in the Warriors' home opener on Friday afternoon at the Warrior Softball Diamond.
Falling to 6-12 on the year with a 1-2 mark within Northeast-10 Conference Division play, Merrimack will look to rebound with two doubleheaders on back-to-back days, as the Warriors host New Haven Saturday (April 6) beginning at noon.
"It was a frustrating day because a few mistakes in a short span wound up costing us the game," head coach Jim Cardello noted afterward. "We have to continue to work on shoring up our defense and not being afraid with the bats in our hands in a big spot. Fortunately for us we have some more big games this weekend to help us turn it around."
Merrimack watched the visiting Penmen (9-6, 1-0 NE-10) take the lead on six runs scored in the top of the second, capped off by a two-run homer from Lindsey Bolduc to give SNHU a 6-1 lead after two innings.
The hosts responded with three runs in the third thanks to a three-run bomb off the bat of junior Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) and clawed to within one with a run in the bottom of the fifth. But Southern New Hampshire added a late insurance run on an infield single in the top of the sixth, and reliever Ali Maloof (4-3) shut the door in the late innings to preserve the win.
After coming on in relief of starter Dolores Mattice, who did not pitch the minimum amount for the win, Maloof earned the victory thanks to a four-inning, six-strikeout outing, while her offense backed her up with 10 hits on the day.
Sophomore Valerie Bauer (Salem, N.H.) took the loss after surrendering seven runs – six earned – on six hits over five innings. The righty struck out four and walked three over that span, but the homer allowed in the second proved to be costly.
Senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) accounted for Merrimack's only multi-hit performance of the day, while Perry was the lone player to drive in a run, as Merrimack edged ahead in the bottom of the first after a run scored on a dropped third strike with the bases loaded.
The Penmen blasted ahead with their productive second, capped by Bolduc's bomb over the wall in left center. Perry followed suit with her second long ball of the year with runners on second and third in the bottom of the third, making it a two-run (6-4) game entering the fourth.
That prompted Maloof's entrance, and aside from a run allowed in the fifth that scored by means of an errant throw from the catcher, the right-hander kept the Warriors at bay the rest of the way. SNHU's late insurance run in the top of the sixth proved to be unnecessary, as a double play eliminated a leadoff single in the sixth before the Warriors went down in order in the seventh.
Merrimack and New Haven will continue conference play with a Saturday doubleheader beginning at noon.