Moving on! Softball rallies past Merrimack for first Super Regional berth

MANCHESTER, N.H. – For the first time in program history, the No. 2-seeded Saint Anselm College softball team is headed to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Division II Softball Championship after defeating No. 7-seeded Merrimack College, 4-3, in Game 6 of the East 2 Regional on Saturday at South Athletic Fields.

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Needing two wins on the day to win the regional, Merrimack (33-16) scored three first-inning runs to lead 3-0 early, but Saint Anselm (39-10-1) rallied to score the game's final four runs and advance to the Super Regionals. Senior Amanda Bickford provided the go-ahead two-run double in a three-run fourth inning and sophomore Morgan Perry did not allow a run after the first inning to earn her school-record 21st victory of the season.

The victory completed a perfect 3-0 run through the East 2 Regional for the Hawks with all three wins coming against Northeast Divisional foes by a combined four runs. Saint Anselm will host fourth-seeded LIU Post on Thursday and Friday, May 17-18, in the best-of-three Super Regionals after the Pioneers defeated top-seeded and host Adelphi University, 8-0 (6 inn.) to win the East 1 Regional on Saturday afternoon.

Bickford's eventual game-winning double was part of a 3-for-4 day for the senior, who had three of Saint Anselm's seven hits. Freshman Lauren Washburn went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs, while senior Shannon McLaughlin and sophomore Madison Borrelli each drove in runs with base hits and scored a run apiece.

Perry went the distance in the circle, allowing three runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to improve to 21-4 on the spring. The sophomore's 21st win of the season broke a tie with Lisa Petell, who went 20-4 in 1999, for the single-season school win record.

Northeast-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year Megan Cook yielded four runs over a complete game and also went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run at the plate for Merrimack. Cook, who worked all 28.0 of her team's innings at the three-day regional, fell to 25-7 for the season with the loss.

As the designated home team, the Warriors jumped on Perry in the bottom of the first inning to take an early 3-0 lead. Nicole Nanof singled with one out and came around to score the game's first run on a RBI double to the gap in right center by Alyssa Williamson. Cook, the next batter, homered to left to bring in two more on her second home run of the season.

The Hawks got one of the runs back in the top of the second on a two-out RBI double by McLaughlin off the glove of a sliding Kristina Terrazzano near the right-field line. After the double, Saint Anselm had runners on second and third with two outs, but Cook maintained her team's two-run lead by getting the final out.

Merrimack held the 3-1 lead until the top of the fourth when the Hawks scored three runs to go ahead for good. With runners on first and second and two outs, Borrelli singled to left field to score Washburn and Bickford followed with a line-drive, two-run double to left center to score Borrelli and McLaughlin.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Warriors loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of errors and a walk, but Perry struck out Nanof swinging to end the threat. Needing a run to keep its season alive, Merrimack got a leadoff single from Tiffany Mangiameli and a sacrifice bunt by Nanof to put the tying run in scoring position.

After a walk to Williamson, Perry struck out Cook looking and got Caitlin McBride to fly out to Maggie Murphy in foul ground in left to seal the Hawks' first trip to the Super Regionals. Perry appeared in all three of her team's games at the regional, going 2-0 with a save and a 1.31 ERA. The sophomore struck out 23 batters over 16.0 innings and went the distance in each of her two starts.

With the win, Saint Anselm improved to 8-3 in one-run games this season and 15-4 in games decided by two runs or fewer. Of the six games at the regional, Saint Anselm's 3-1 win over Southern New Hampshire on Friday was the lone game not to be decided by a single run.