NORTH ANDOVER — As soon as the calendar hit April last season, something clicked for the Merrimack softball team.
Entering the final month of the season with a 6-18 record, the Warriors went 18-7 over the final month before falling to Assumption, 3-2, in the NE10 tournament.
That momentum has carried over into the 2017 season. The Warriors are 22-11 with just two weeks left in the regular season, currently sitting in first place of the NE10’s Northeast Division.
Over their last 58 games, the Warriors are 40-18.
“We finally started to realize what path we could be on,” Merrimack captain and pitcher Haley Currie said. “It clicked and we figured out what we needed to do to win games. We figured out what we needed to do, and we started doing it. We were getting clutch hits, getting people in scoring position and getting those runs in. It started at the end of last season but it’s carried over into this season. I think because we brought back so many people, that’s a big reason why it carried over.”
One of the biggest reasons Merrimack has been able to carry that momentum over into a new season is the fact that the Warriors returned nearly their entire roster. Merrimack only graduated two seniors from last year’s team.
With almost the entire team returning, the Warriors have six starters batting over .300 on the season, with Alyssa Williamson leading the way (.417).
On the mound, Megan Cook has a 1.76 ERA, with Currie posting a 2.31 ERA. Currie leads the the pitchers with a 9-3 record and has thrown 10 complete games in 11 starts.
“We play the way we’re supposed to play,” said Currie. “We’ve had to battle through some things, going from Florida and South Carolina to being back inside up here was a challenge, but we’ve faced those challenges and worked to get through them as a team.
“We brought back a lot of players who were playing in key positions for us last year,” Currie continued. “That’s huge now. My class has been starting, for the most part, since we got here. We’re still a young team, but we have a lot of experience and that’s what we’re leaning on. It’s help us, you have some past experience to draw on.”
Contributing to Merrimack’s success this spring is what they accomplished in the fall, according to Currie. After falling to Assumption in the NE10 quarterfinals, the Warriors separated for the summer before returning to campus just a few months later in September. From there, the team picked up right where it left off, Currie said.
“We’re all on board,” Currie said. “We got back to school in the fall and we started getting prepared for the season right away. We jumped right back into it. Losing to Assumption last year fueled the fire for us. We want to be back where we were at the end of last season with at chance to move on. I think having so many players back helped us get going right away. We were able to just get right back into it.”
Now, the Warriors are challenged with managing their success. As much as a string of losses can be difficult to overcome, managing success is also something teams need to learn how to do.
“We need to learn how to win,” is something you hear often from coaches. It’s true, and this step for Merrimack is an important hurdle.
“It can be easy to get complacent,” Currie said. “But I think the way the year ended for us, that’s what we keep thinking back to. We know we play in the NE10 and it’s a big hitting league. Everyone knows that you will have some struggles but it’s how you get through it. We played Saint Mike’s and they swept SNHU. They don’t usually get beat like that. It just proves you need to be on your “A” game all the time. We don’t want to peak. We’re playing well, but we’re very focused on making sure we continue to do that game to game.
This is an important week in that regard. Merrimack sits a few games ahead of Saint Anselm and Assumption in the divisional standings. Today, the Warriors face Saint A’s at 1 p.m. and the Warriors host Assumption for a double header on Wednesday.
After a series with SNHU this weekend, the Warriors will travel to Assumption next Tuesday and then finish out the regular season series at Franklin Pierce.
Success this week could help wrap up the division for the Warriors.
“We can’t take any team lightly,” she said. “We remember what happened last year. We’re close with SNHU, Assumption, St. A’s, and those are going to be big games. We’re excited to have those games coming up. I think we’re ready for those games now. The beginning of the year, we might have been a little rattled, but we’re ready now.”--
Mike McMahon has covered Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune since 2006 and he also has been a senior writer at College Hockey News since 2005.
You can follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN and you can follow the site @TheMackReports.