Softball drops pair of narrow contests to first-place Merrimack, 5-3 and 2-1 (10)

Softball drops pair of narrow contests to first-place Merrimack, 5-3 and 2-1 (10)

COLCHESTER, Vt. - During its home-opening doubleheader, the Saint Michael's College softball team suffered a pair of narrow losses to first-place Merrimack College, 5-3 and 2-1 in 10 innings, on Thursday at Doc Jacobs Field. The Purple Knights are 3-13 overall and 3-4 in the Northeast-10 Conference, while the Warriors improved to 21-8 and 8-3 while maintaining the top spot in the NE10 Northeast Division.

Saint Michael's, which is amid an 11-day stretch during which it will play 12 contests, took Merrimack to extra innings for the third straight season, having won a 1-0 decision in nine innings in 2015 and lost 5-4 in 10 frames last spring. Today's game and the 2016 affair are the Purple Knights' lone 10-inning contests over the past decade after they played two 10-inning games in a 21-day stretch during the spring of 2007.

In game one, sophomore Fallon Tierney (Reading, Mass./Reading Memorial) was 3-for-3 with a run, an RBI, a walk and a double to push her hitting streak to seven games before it ended in the nightcap. It was her fifth career three-hit outing. First-year Torie Rathwell (Guilderland, N.Y./Guilderland) hit a two-run triple while taking the loss after yielding four runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings. Junior Danielle Brown (Vergennes, Vt./Vergennes Union) allowed one run on four hits in 2.1 frames of relief, striking out two and walking one.

Junior Alyssa Williamson was 3-for-4 with a run and two RBIs for Merrimack, and sophomore Nicole Nanof went 2-for-3 with a run, an RBI and a triple. Junior Megan Cook earned the win after allowing two unearned runs on four hits in 4.1 innings, striking out seven, before classmate Brooke Bogacz tossed 2.2 innings of relief for the save. She yielded one run on two hits.

The Warriors put a runner at second with one down in the first inning before Rathwell left her there, setting down the next seven hitters, but the visitors strung together four straight two-out hits to score three runs in the third. Williamson's single plated the first before an outfield error brought in the second, and sophomore Caitlin McBride followed with an RBI double. The Purple Knights countered when Rathwell came within feet of a tying three-run home run in the bottom half, tripling home two teammates with a drive off the center field fence.

Williamson's two-out RBI single in the fifth and Nanof's RBI triple in the sixth extended the Merrimack lead to 5-2, and Brown pitched around two singles in a scoreless seventh. In the home half, first-year Aleksandra Apkarian (Butler, N.J./Butler) led off with a pinch-hit walk before junior Chandler Wilder (Beverly, Mass./Bishop Fenwick) singled, beating out a tricky bouncer back to the circle, but a runner was called out for being off the base with the pitcher back in the circle, leaving one on with one out. Tierney later came through with a two-out RBI single, bringing the tying run to the plate, but the final batter popped out.

Senior Danielle Barbato's (Hillsdale, N.Y./Taconic Hills) career-high-tying fourth homer of the season leading off the seventh inning of game two forced extra frames, as she finished 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Rathwell finished 2-for-4 with a double, and Brown walked once while tossing all 10 innings, scattering 10 hits and yielding just one earned run. She struck out eight and walked one.

Senior Samantha Waskowitz was 3-for-5 with a double as the lone Warrior with multiple hits. Junior Courtney Zambello took a no-decision after allowing one run on four hits in six-plus innings with three strikeouts and one walk. Senior Haley Currie earned the victory, setting down all 11 batters she faced.

Brown left runners at second base in both the first and fourth innings before Rathwell doubled with one down in the home half during a scoreless fourth. Senior Morgan Phipps led off the fifth with a bunt single before classmate Mariah Tenney tripled her home, but Brown stranded runners at second and third after inducing two straight popups to her corner infielders. On the third pitch of the bottom of the seventh, Barbato blasted her tying homer to straightaway center field, and Rathwell followed with a single. She moved to second on a sac bunt but was eventually left there.

Two singles and a walk allowed Merrimack to load the bases with two out in the eighth before Brown struck out the next batter, and she left another runner at second to end the ninth. Nanof was put on second base as the International Tie-Breaker came into effect for the 10th inning, and she took third on a wild pitch before being plated on Williamson's line-drive sac fly, which senior right fielder Caroline Staples (Stoughton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) went to the ground to snag. The Warriors put two more runners on before Brown escaped the jam. Rathwell was placed at second to start the Saint Michael's 10th, but a line-drive double play and groundout ended the game.

The Purple Knights visit Assumption College for three games this weekend, beginning with a doubleheader tomorrow at 2 p.m.