NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – With the tying runs in scoring position in the midst of a rally from down four runs, the Merrimack softball team just missed mounting an epic comeback in game one before Saint Anselm completed a doubleheader sweep by tallying the game-winning run in the top of the seventh of game two, as the Warriors dropped a two-game set against the Hawks on Friday afternoon at the Warrior Softball Diamond.
Moving to 18-21-1 overall on the year with a 9-8-1 mark in league play, the Warriors now sit a full game back of fourth-place Stonehill with exactly three Northeast-10 Conference Divisional games remaining in the regular season. Merrimack will conclude its home slate with a doubleheader against last-place Franklin Pierce tomorrow, while Stonehill battles third-place Saint Anselm (20-19, 12-6 NE Div.) over the weekend, as well.
Trailing by three runs in the bottom of the seven in game one, Merrimack mounted a late charge that saw a run score and the tying runs in scoring position, but Saint A's starter Tayla Trask buckled down and induced a fly out and a lineout double play to give the Hawks a 4-2 win over the Warriors to start the afternoon.
Down by three, Merrimack began its charge as sophomore Stephanie Lapierre (Berlin, Conn.) blasted a double down the left field line and moved to third on a wild pitch. Then, junior Nicole LoPilato (Medford, Mass.) bunted for a hit that scored Lapierre, and in the midst of the play, with no one covering, the speedy center fielder made it all the way to second without stopping to account for a wild infield double.
Then, after junior Jessica Fugazzotto (Newton, Mass.) singled down the left field line, Merrimack had the tying runs at second and third. But Trask notched a strikeout before inducing a game-ending double play on a well-hit ball that was snagged by the third baseball for the easy catch-and-tag double play, stopping the Warriors' comeback prematurely.
Trask improved to 9-12 with the win, striking out eight and allowing just one earned run over her outing. Those numbers were enough to best senior Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.), who surrendered four runs – two earned, while striking out five. Classmate Alie Thomas (Beford, N.H.) also saw time in relief for the Warriors.
Merrimack finished with six hits in game one, with junior Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) belting two, while senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) and LoPilato accounted for the lone Warrior runs batted in.
Trailing by two against the Hawks in the bottom of the fifth, Keaira Monet Perry laced a two-RBI single to center to tie the match, but Saint Anselm notched the game-deciding run in the top of the seventh to complete a Friday doubleheader sweep with a 3-2 win in game two.
Despite three two-hit performers for the Warriors, Merrimack managed just two runs on those six hits, while the Hawks tacked on two early scores in the top of the fourth against starter Alexis Perry (Westford, Vt.) on a two-RBI double off the bat of Pattie Turner before Lauren Galavotti drove in the deciding run on a fielder's choice in the top of the seventh.
Paige Cormier improved to 11-7 for the visitors after tossing seven strong innings with four strikeouts while yielding two runs, while Perry fell to 4-9 after surrendering three earned runs on six hits and three walks.
Palmieri, junior Allison Berthiaume (Berkley, Mass.) and Monet Perry accounted for all of Merrimack's offense, while the latter scored the formers on a two-RBI base knock in the bottom of the fifth to tie the contest at 2-2.
After each side went down in order in the sixth, Saint Anselm threatened in the top of the seventh on a leadoff single and a bunt that put two on with nobody out.
With runners at second and third, Galavotti reached on a fielder's choice that saw the game-deciding run score, and Merrimack could not muster anything in the bottom of the frame to avoid the sweep.
The Warriors return to action with a doubleheader against Franklin Pierce on Senior Day tomorrow (April 26) afternoon. First pitch from the Warrior Softball Diamond is slated for 12 p.m.