NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Junior Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) gave Merrimack an early 3-0 advantage on a home run in the bottom of the first, but the Merrimack softball team was unable to hold on to the lead, as UMass Lowell powered back with a four-run third en route to handing the Warriors a 6-3 Northeast-10 Conference Divisional setback on a cold Monday afternoon at the Warrior Softball Diamond.
With eight games left in the regular season – all of which will be played during the next six days – Merrimack moves to 17-18 overall with an 8-6 mark in divisional play and sit tied for fourth with Stonehill. The River Hawks (23-18, 13-3 NE Division) maintain their lead atop the division by virtue of the win.
"We can't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves," head coach Jim Cardello said afterward. "We have ourselves to blame and the good news is we have a chance to go out there tomorrow, and Wednesday and this weekend and control our own destiny as far as the playoffs are concerned."
Perry finished with a team-leading two hits (2-for-3) while driving in the only three Merrimack runs scored on the day. Four other Warriors finished with a hit apiece, while the Navy and Gold stranded seven base runners over the course of the day.
Senior Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.) was charged with the loss in relief, falling to 7-6 on the year. The right-hander tossed 4 2/3 frames after relieving sophomore Valerie Bauer (Salem, N.H.) with two runners on, one out and a 3-2 lead in the top of the third.
After walking a batter to load the bases, Deardorff induced a fielder's choice to retire the runner coming home, but in the next at-bat UMass Lowell's Krista MacKenzie dropped a single into center to score two runs, giving the River Hawks a lead they would never relinquish.
The second baseman finished with four RBI on a 3-for-4 showing at the plate, while first baseman Brianna Mahoney also added two hits and an RBI for the visitors. That offense was enough to back starter Marielle Handley, who went the distance while striking out five and walking three. Deardorff finished with two strikeouts and two walks, while Bauer struggled with her command, issuing six free passes, four runs (three earned) and three hits.
Merrimack hopped on the board early after junior Jessica Fugazzotto (Newton, Mass.) and senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) each reached in consecutive at-bats, setting the stage for Perry's three-run bomb to right center, helping the Warriors take a 3-0 lead after one.
But following a scoreless second, the River Hawks made Bauer pay for her mistakes, as Mahoney singled in a run before another came in on a throwing error. After yielding another walk, Deardorff entered the game with a 2-0 count and issued a free pass to load the bases again. The senior nearly got out of the jam, but with two outs and the bases loaded MacKenzie came through to score the deciding runs of the contest.
MacKenzie drove in two more in the fifth, doubling to center field to increase the River Hawks' advantage to 6-3. Merrimack was unable to get much going from there, allowing Lowell to take the season series, 2-1.
The Warriors return to the diamond tomorrow (April 23), hosting Saint Anselm for a two-game set beginning at 3 p.m.