Three years ago, Tawny Palmieri was a hot softball prospect out of Peabody High School, but she didn't investigate all of her college opportunities.
The former Tanners captain had her mind set on playing Division 1 ball at UMass-Amherst and went to school in western Massachusetts. But after being redshirted as a college freshman, she saw limited time with the Minutemen's softball team last season and decided to transfer to Merrimack College last September.
"I never thought about Merrimack when I was in high school, but I grew up playing with one of their captains, Mo Gosselin (from Central Catholic). She loved the school and the team," Palmieri said. "I knew if she liked it that much I would, too."
The move has been beneficial to both sides. Palmieri has helped lead Merrimack to an at-large bid in the NCAA Division 2 East Regional tournament. The double-elimination tournament for the Warriors (28-20) begins tomorrow when they take on top-seeded and host Dowling College (42-6) in Brookhaven, N.Y. The Golden Lions are ranked seventh in the country.
"I'm so happy I made the move," Palmieri said of transferring schools. "The girls are great, and it's one of the most fun teams I have ever been on. Our coach (Elaine Schwager) is wonderful, too. It was just a very good move for me."
Palmieri stepped right into the Warriors' starting job at third base, a position she had limited experience at but had little trouble making the adjustment.
"I was mostly used at shortstop or second base at UMass, but I did play a little third," she said. "It's a lot different from shortstop, but I really like third because there's a lot of action there."
Palmieri has been a great addition to the Warriors and was named First Team Northeast-10 all-star. She had the sixth-best batting average in the league (a team-leading .392) and hit over .400 for much of the season. She was also fourth in assists from her hot corner position.
Palmieri said that softball has dominated her life ever since the Warriors' 10-day trip to Florida over spring break. She ended the regular season with a .728 fielding percentage and .581 slugging percentage.
Palmieri likes hitting in the No. 3 spot where she had 58 hits, 11 doubles, a triple and five homers with 27 runs batted in. She led her team in doubles, stolen bases and total bases (86) and was second behind Gosselin in RBI.
This marks the 14th NCAA appearance for Merrimack and its first in seven years.
"It's exciting," said Palmieri, a junior in the classroom (but a sophomore athletically) who is majoring in sociology with an elementary education minor.
"This was definitely the right move for me, and my parents are so happy I'm a lot closer now. I'm living at school, but I like the fact that I can go home to see my family any time I want. Of course, they're going to Long Island this weekend to see us play; they wouldn't miss it."