NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Trailing by a run in the top of the seventh, visiting Stonehill rallied to send the game to extras, tacked on two runs in the ninth and held on to down the Merrimack softball team, 9-8, in a nine-inning, Northeast-10 Conference Divisional thriller at the Warrior Softball Diamond on a windy and rainy Tuesday afternoon.
Seeing their season-high five-game winning streak come to a close, the Warriors move to 13-15 on the year and 6-3 inside the division, while the Skyhawks improved to an even 20-20 overall and move within a game-and-a-half of Merrimack in the division race with a 7-5 record.
Outfielder Casey Remick blasted a game-tying, solo homer on a 2-2 count in the top of the seventh to extend the game into extras, and then back-to-back run-scoring singles by Alison Sumski and Megan Staudie gave the visitors a lead they would never relinquish in the top of the ninth.
Needing two runs to keep the game going, junior Ashley Perry (Winchendon, Mass.) ripped a leadoff homer to center – the second of the day for the infielder and fifth of the day between either side – cutting the deficit to 9-8. But Nicole Eisenmann came through when it mattered, getting the last three outs of the game to pick up the save and hand starter Megan Ruonavaara the win.
Each side's offense was clicking over the course of the game and was aided by a steady wind blowing outward as on-and-off rain showers made the pitching environment unenviable. Stonehill managed to out-hit Merrimack by a 14-12 margin and benefitted from four Warrior miscues in the field.
Senior Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.) took the no decision for the Warriors, as rookie Alexis Perry (Westford, Vt.) was charged with the loss after yielding the lead over her final 2 2/3 innings. Deardorff surrendered four earned runs (seven total) while striking out six and walking four, while Perry allowed two runs with three strikeouts and two walks. Ruonavaara tossed eight strong innings to move to 12-10 on the year, striking out six and walking just one while yielding seven earned runs on 12 hits.
Stonehill hopped in front with four runs in the top of the first, but Merrimack would slowly chip back, starting with Perry's first of two solo homers in the bottom of the first. After the visitors added one more run in the top of the second to take a 5-1 lead, Merrimack would make it a one-run game in the bottom of the third, as junior Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) blasted a three-run bomb over the right field wall, bringing the Warriors to within a run (5-4) after three innings.
The Skyhawks responded with a run on an RBI double off the bat of Lindsay McKillop in the top of the fourth, but shortly after the Warriors responded with a second straight three-run frame in the home half of the inning. Both Ashley and Keaira Monet Perry added run-scoring singles before senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) stole home to push the Warriors in front, 7-6.
Both squads' defenses held strong through the fifth and sixth, prompting Remick's dramatic homer in the top of the seventh to send the game to extras. After a scoreless eighth, Sumski and Staudie would single in consecutive at-bats, and that proved to be the difference, as Merrimack's rally in the bottom half of the inning fell just short.
In total, Ashley Perry and Palmieri finished with three-hit performances at the plate, with the former scoring four runs and driving home three more. Monet Perry registered a team-high four RBI on two this and a run scored, as well.
The Warriors continue an extremely busy week with a two-game set at Post on Thursday. First pitch from Waterbury, Conn., is slated for 3 p.m.