NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – After falling in the opener, 5-1, the Merrimack softball team sent its senior class off on a high note, as the Warriors rebounded with a sound 8-0, mercy rule victory against Franklin Pierce, splitting a Northeast-10 Conference divisional doubleheader with the Ravens on Saturday afternoon at the Warrior Softball Diamond.
Moving to 19-22-1 overall with a 10-9-1 mark inside the Northeast Division, the Warriors sit one game back of fourth-place Stonehill with one divisional game remaining in the regular season. The Ravens (9-29, 5-15 NE Div.) will host Merrimack for a two-game set tomorrow afternoon in Rindge, N.H.
Senior Courtney Parker (Bellingham, Mass.) earned her first start of the season, proving an early highlight for the Warriors before Franklin Pierce edged ahead to a five-run lead, as Merrimack fell, 5-1, to the Ravens in game one Saturday.
The most dedicated player for the Warriors over the last four seasons who has provided insight and guidance to a young lineup and pitching staff, Parker tossed the first inning of the game before giving way to classmate Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.). Freshman Alexis Perry (Westford, Vt.) also saw action over 4 1/3 innings, striking out two while yielding three hits.
But Merrimack was unable to solve FPU starter Tricia Hansen, who picked up her first win of the year by means of an eight-strikeout, two-hit performance. Only senior Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) and junior Jaclyn Giovannini (Plano, Texas) tallied a base hit in game one, with Palmieri's accounting for the only Warrior run of the game on a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth.
Franklin Pierce struck for three runs in the third, as Jessica Furtado forced in a run on bases-loaded walk before Caitlin Murphy drove home two more on a two-RBI single to center.
The Ravens tacked on one more on a squeeze play in the top of the fifth before Palmieri's bomb came in the bottom of the sixth. But down by four runs in the seventh, Merrimack was unable to claw back, falling by four in the opener Saturday.
After Merrimack's bats lay dormant during game one, the Warrior offense came alive with 11 hits and eight runs in the late game, as Merrimack cruised to a five-inning, 8-0 victory to split the two-game set against the Ravens.
Seven different Warriors tallied a hit, with four players notching two-hit performances, as sophomore Stephanie Lapierre (Berlin, Conn.) led the way with a three-RBI outing to lead the home side. Deardorff, junior Ashley Perry (Winchendon, Mass.) and classmate Jessica Fugazzotto (Newton, Mass.) each scored two runs themselves, as Rachel Allen took the loss for the visitors after surrendering four runs on eight hits.
Deardorff, meanwhile, notched her ninth win of the year with a five-strikeout, two-hit afternoon. The senior walked just two over her five innings of action in the late game.
Merrimack hopped ahead with two runs in the second, as Lapierre brought in a pair on a run-scoring single to center. Then, two innings later, it was Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) doubling the lead on a two-RBI base knock to left, pushing the Warriors in front, 4-0, after four.
Finally, the home side mounted another big inning in the fifth. After Deardorff scored on an error, Lapierre brought home a run on a groundout before Fugazzotto added another on a passed ball. Finally, Monet Perry wrapped it up with a single before Palmieri crossed on an error, clinching the mercy rule in the fifth to seal the win.
Merrimack heads to Franklin Pierce tomorrow (April 28) for a doubleheader in Rindge, N.H. First pitch is slated for 12 p.m.