Merrimack Jacks Eight Homers in Saturday Sweep of Softball

NO. ANDOVER, Mass. – The softball diamond at Merrimack College is famous for being a hitters' ballpark. Well, the host Warriors put on quite the homerun derby in its two-game slate against Saint Anselm College Saturday, belting eight homeruns en route to a 7-6, nine-inning win then trouncing the Hawks 10-1 a five-inning decision in the nightcap. 

The series, which was led off with a 10-inning 6-5 victory by Saint Anselm Friday night, saw the two reams combine for 14 homeruns. Merrimack alone jacked 12 round-trippers, accounting for 19 of the Warriors' 22 runs scored on the weekend.

Saturday's opener was nearly a mirror image of Friday's outing, with the Hawks jumping out to a huge 5-0 lead after three innings. Junior Emily Crannell (Wilmington, Mass.) put Saint Anselm on the board first with an RBI single through the right side to score freshman Amanda Bickford (Salem, N.H.). Freshman Hannah Paitchel (Pelham, N.H.) then picked up an RBI groundout to score senior Hannah Byrne (Lynn, Mass.) in the top half of the second. Finally, the Hawks crossed three on a junior Julie LeClair (Taunton, Mass.) two-run shot to left, scoring junior Michaela Criscione (Franklin, Mass.) and Byrne added an RBI single to right to score junior Pattie Turner (Warwick, R.I.). 

Much like Friday, the Warriors responded with the longball, manufacturing a run in the bottom of the third before a solo shot in the fourth and a three-run homer in the fifth tied the game at 5-5. An error—one of four in game one alone for the Hawks—gave the Warriors their first lead of the afternoon after six full innings, 6-5.

Criscione then responded with a huge leadoff homerun of her own to pull to even in the top of the seventh, but a baserunning blunder turned a sacrifice out into two and wiped out a post-homer walk as Merrimack escaped with the score still tied. 

The Hawks had freshman Shannon McLaughlin (Tewksbury, Mass.) on base in the eighth inning with a single, as well as LeClair and Turner both on in the ninth with two outs, but the Hawks couldn't push a run across. Finally, a two-out walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth fittingly scored the Warriors' game-winner.

The third game wasn't a pretty one for the Hawks offense—while Merrimack continued to knock balls over the fence, the Hawks were no-hit for the first time this season. The only run scored came off two errors, a walk and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Byrne to score Bickford in the fourth inning. With a 6-1 lead entering the bottom of the fifth, the Warriors then hit two homers—including the game-ending two-run shot to center—to sweep the day. 

Saint Anselm, which clinched a berth to the Northeast-10 Championship tournament with Friday's nailbiter, will now get two days off for the first time since opening the NE-10 schedule on April 11. The Hawks, who are the #4-seed in the Northeast Division, will travel to #3-seed Assumption for a play-in game Tuesday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Marois Field in Worcester.

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