NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Senior right-hander Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.) tossed a complete game shutout to help the Warriors take the opener, as the Merrimack softball team split a Northeast-10 Conference Divisional doubleheader against Southern New Hampshire on a windy Friday afternoon at the Warrior Softball Diamond.
Moving to 16-16 on the year with a 7-4 mark in Northeast Division play, the Warriors will continue a huge weekend against exclusively Divisional opponents with a doubleheader against Saint Anselm at home Saturday afternoon. The Penmen moved to 22-10 overall with a 10-2 mark in league play to remain atop the Northeast Division.
"At this point in the season, you obviously aren't happy with a split, but there were some positives that came out of today," head coach Jim Cardello said afterward. "We got some excellent starting pitching, I thought, but we'll need to be a bit more consistent at the plate as we move forward over the course of this weekend."
Backed by a complete game, six-strikeout performance from Deardorff, Merrimack snuck by Southern New Hampshire, 1-0, to take the opening game of the afternoon.
In a classic pitcher's duel that saw both sides combine for four hits total, junior Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) drove home the game's only run in the bottom of the third, and Deardorff made sure to capitalize, as the senior dazzled over seven innings, yielding just one hit while striking out six and walking two to improve to 6-5 on the season.
SNHU ace Ali Maloof (11-5) took the loss despite giving up the lone run on three hits. The Penmen starter struck out seven and walked three over the course of her outing.
With no score in the bottom of the third, junior Jessica Fugazzotto (Newton, Mass.) led off the inning with a single down the left field line. After a sacrifice moved her to second, Perry came to the plate and connected on a two-out, full-count pitch, blooping one to center that was deep enough to score the speedy Fugazzotto and give the Warriors a one-run lead.
From there on out, it was all Deardorff. The Bedford, Mass., native did not allow a Penmen to get further than first base the rest of the way, as her dominant start allowed the Navy and Gold to edge the visitors in the opening game.
A two-error inning allowed Southern New Hampshire to take a three-run lead in the top of the third, and that proved to be the difference in game two, as the Warriors were forced to settle with a doubleheader split against the Penmen after dropping the late game, 3-1.
SNHU outhit Merrimack by a slim 5-4 margin, but two miscues by the Warrior defense in the top of the third frame yielded three unearned runs – including a solo shot off the bat of Kate Stanley – and Merrimack's offense was limited to just a run on four hits.
SNHU starter Dolores Mattice improved to 9-2 on the year with a complete game, four-hit effort while striking out six and walking two. Those lines were enough to best freshman Alexis Perry (Westford, Vt.), who put up zeroes in six out of seven innings and struck out three but ultimately wound up taking the loss despite surrendering three unearned runs.
Senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.), Keaira Monet Perry, Alexis Perry and junior Nicole LoPilato (Medford, Mass.) each tallied a single hit for the Warriors, while Alexis Perry accounted for the home side's lone run with a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth.
Merrimack did not have many opportunities against Mattice, who walked just two and stranded three base runners, as the Warriors finished 4-for-23 (.173) at the plate in game two.