NORTH ANDOVER — The Merrimack softball team enters a critical four-game weekend against Franklin Pierce tomorrow (Saturday), sitting just one game behind Bentley and Assumption for the final playoff spot in the Northeast-10 Tournament with season ending in exactly one week. The top-4 teams in each division qualify for the tournament.
Merrimack will host Franklin Pierce for a pair of noon and 2 p.m. games both Saturday and Sunday. The Warriors split a doubleheader at Bentley on Thursday, slugging 16 hits in the second game en route to a 9-3 win.
Merrimack has been on a roll since the calendar turned to April. The Warriors have posted an 11-3 record in their last 14 games after starting the season 6-18.
“I think one of the biggest things is we’re all coming together at the right time,” said senior pitcher and captain, Alexis Perry. “Earlier in the season, we couldn’t string anything together. We weren’t consistent. We’re starting to find our rhythm.”
Finding your rhythm, especially for northern-based teams, can be tough. The Warriors opened the season with six games over three days in South Carolina this past February, going 2-4 against teams that mostly had a head start on practicing — and playing — thanks to being in warmer climates.
Then in March, the Warriors made a trip to Florida. In one set of games against Rollins, a Florida-based college, it was the Warriors’ 17th game of the season whereas it was the 28th game of the year for Rollins.
“It definitely takes time to find the rhythm,” Perry said. “The only times we’re outside is for games at the beginning of the year. Almost all of our practices are inside. It’s just very limited in what we can do inside. Now we’re finally clicking and I think we’re getting into a groove.”
Confidence is up as well, as is to be expected during a hot streak like Merrimack finds itself on.
“We’re seeing our full potential,” said Perry. “I think we’re remaining level-headed, but we’re seeing just how good we can be and that’s motivating.”
The Warriors have also displayed a sharp sense of resilience. For example, on Thursday the Warriors dropped an important Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Falcons — and fell hard, 8-1 — before coming back with those 16 hits in the second game for a lopsided win of their own, 9-3.
“We don’t get down on ourselves,” Perry said. “If we have one bad game, we come back even harder.
“We just try to focus on one game at a time. Last year we missed the playoffs by one game. Our motto is ‘one more game.’ Just focus on the game at hand. If we’re focused too much on the standings, you get too concerned with other things and we’ll stop focusing on ourselves. One more win, each game is the only one that matters.”
Sticking to that message, and doing so with such consistency, is what Perry believes has the Warriors back in the hunt after a slow start.
On the mound, Perry has a team-best .233 batting average against. In 15 appearances, she has posted a 3.82 earned-run average; Haley Currie leads the team with a 3.41 ERA.
At the plate, Samantha Waskowitz leads the Warriors with a .377 batting average, followed closely by Currie’s .365. As a team, the Warriors are batting .251 with an on-base percentage of .330.
“We keep coming back,” Perry said. “Against Stonewall we lost in extra innings and then came back and beat them. Bentley, we lose and then crush them in the second game. As a group we don’t get down on ourselves. We hold each other accountable. We know that, as a team, next time we’ll go out and get it done.”