NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Ahead by just a run in the fifth, the Merrimack softball team exploded for back-to-back home runs to take an insurmountable four-run lead, helping the Warriors take game one, 6-2, before settling for an afternoon split with Southern Connecticut State after dropping the late contest 5-3 in a Northeast-10 Conference doubleheader on Sunday at the Warrior Softball Diamond.
Moving to 8-14 on the season after a 2-3 weekend, the Warriors will continue conference play with an important Northeast Division doubleheader on Wednesday afternoon against Bentley, while the Owls improved to 16-14 overall.
After Southern Connecticut sliced a three-run deficit to one (3-2) after four innings, sophomore Lindsay Gibbs (Acton, Mass.) and junior Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) connected on back-to-back solo home runs to put the game out of reach, as the Warriors took game one, 6-2, over the Owls.
Senior Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.) picked up her third win of the year after tossing 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, as the righty struck out five while walking just two over the course of her outing. Kelsey Cockrill took the loss after allowing six runs (three earned) on five hits despite a six-strikeout, two-walk performance.
Both Gibbs and Monet Perry finished with two of Merrimack's five hits, as only three Warriors in total managed a hit against Cockrill in the opener.
Merrimack struck in the bottom of the first after Monet Perry scored Gibbs on a single to right. An inning later, the Warriors made it a 3-0 lead after junior Ashley Perry (Winchendon, Mass.) drove in two runs on a base knock to center.
But the visitors clawed back with two runs in the top of the fourth, as an error in the infield allowed Julie Muscarella to score from third, prompting the substitution of Deardorff for starter Alie Thomas (Bedford, N.H.). Despite forcing in a run on a walk with the bases loaded, the senior righty settled down and got out of the jam to keep the lead intact.
Then, in the fifth, Merrimack got all the insurance it would need, as senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) picked up her first RBI of the day on a run-scoring groundout before Gibbs and Monet Perry left the yard in consecutive at-bats.
New Haven would have no answers in the sixth and seventh, as the Warriors held on to earn the game one victory.
Ahead by a run, 3-2, in the top of the sixth, Merrimack saw its lead evaporate as Southern Connecticut returned the favor with a game-changing two-run homer off the bat of Alyssa Downs, as the Warriors dropped game two, 5-3, to settle for the doubleheader split.
Freshman Alexis Perry (Westford, Vt.) had a lead late in the game after entering the game in the top of the second, but the rookie allowed a two-run, go-ahead homer and one further score in the sixth to put the Owls ahead by two.
Merrimack would only be able to scratch across one hit the rest of the way, as reliever Yesenia Evaristo (3-3) picked up the win by tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings while benefitting from four strikeouts and just one hit and one walk allowed.
Perry fell to 1-6 on the year after allowing three runs on three hits. The rookie struck out two and walked three before Deardorff closed out the remaining 1 2/3 innings with no further damage done.
Six different Warriors tallied a hit, while sophomore Stephanie Lapierre (Berlin, Conn.) accounted for the game's only multi-hit performer. Junior Jessica Fugazzotto (Newton, Mass.) was credited with the Warriors' only RBI, while Palmieri and Ashley Perry added a double and triple, respectively.
After falling behind by two in the top of the second, the Warriors responded right back in the home half of the inning, as an infield single off the bat of Fugazzotto allowed Merrimack to tie it up. An inning later, Ashley Perry came home on a wild pitch following a triple in the gap in center field, pushing the Warriors ahead by a slim 3-2 margin.
That score held until the top of the sixth, as Downs took advantage of a mistake pitch and sent it over the wall with a runner on base, turning a one-run SCSU deficit into a one-run advantage. The visitors tacked on one final run before the inning ended to take a 5-3 lead.
From there, Merrimack was unable to complete a rally of its own, settling for a 1-1 day after dropping the late contest.