RINDGE, N.H. – After splitting with Franklin Pierce at home on Saturday, the Merrimack softball team closed out the season on a high note with a pair of convincing victories over the Ravens during a Sunday afternoon Northeast-10 Conference road doubleheader sweep in Rindge, N.H.
Finishing the year 21-22-1 overall with an 11-9-1 mark in the Northeast Division, the Warriors see their season end after just missing out on a playoff berth and finishing fifth in the Division. After finishing with an identical divisional record and splitting the season series, 1-1-1, with fourth-place Stonehill, the deciding tiebreaker criteria came down to the two teams' compared record against Franklin Pierce. The Skyhawks had posted a perfect 3-0 mark over the Ravens, while the Warriors finished 2-1, giving Stonehill the final playoff spot.
Despite missing the playoffs, Merrimack finished the year on a high note and surpassed the 20-win plateau after failing to reach that mark last year. The Warriors also went 16-13 in the month of April after starting the year 5-9, rebounding from a tough start to nearly finish .500.
Backed by a four-run third, senior Kelli Jo Deardorff (Bedford, Mass.) locked in and limited the Ravens (9-31) to three hits over five innings before classmate Alie Thomas (Bedford, N.H.) closed it out with two scoreless innings of her own to help Merrimack post a 5-0 win in game one over Franklin Pierce.
Seniors Tawny Palmieri (Peabody, Mass.) and Helen Gillis (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) and junior Jaclyn Giovannini (Plano, Texas) each tallied two hits apiece for the visitors, who exploded for four runs in the third to back their way to the win. Palmieri used a three-run homer to highlight the explosive inning, while junior Jessica Fugazzotto (Newton, Mass.) drove in the first run on an RBI double to left center.
Leading by four, Giovannini drove home an insurance run in the sixth that proved not to be necessary. Deardorff powered her way to her 10th victory of the year with a five-strikeout, one-walk performance, as the Warriors bested FPU starter Jessica Wiley (0-3), who yielded four runs on five hits over four innings.
Leading by two runs in the fourth, Merrimack's offense exploded for seven runs to take an insurmountable, nine-run lead, before the Warriors sealed a mercy rule victory with three more in the fifth, as Merrimack wrapped up the year with a five-inning, 12-0 win against Franklin Pierce.
Seven different Warriors posted at least one hit, with Palmieri, Fugazzotto, Giovannini and junior Allison Berthiaume (Berkley, Mass.) each garnering two hits apiece. Palmieri and Berthiaume finished with a team-best three RBI, while Giovannini drove in two herself. Freshman Brittany Razo (Anaheim, Calif.) also scored twice for the Navy and Gold, one run shy of Palmieri's team-leading three runs.
Game two also saw the Warrior bats explode for three home runs, as Palmieri, junior Keaira Monet Perry (Bellingham, Mass.) and Berthiaume all left the yard; Palmieri, Giovannini and Berthiaume each added a double of their own, as well.
After a solo homer from Monet Perry in the first pushed Merrimack in front, 2-0, Berthiaume started the seven-run fourth with a three-run jack before Palmieri followed suit with a three-run homer of her own later in the frame. Deardorff wrapped up the inning with a sacrifice fly to give the Warriors a 9-0 advantage after four innings of play.
Finally, in the fifth, Giovannini drove in two more runs on a double before an error plated the final run of the season for the visitors.
Sophomore Valerie Bauer (Salem, N.H.) picked up her sixth win of the year in the process, striking out three and yielding three hits over a five-inning span.