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FGCU Softball Featured by Atlantic Sun
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

MACON, Ga. – As the 2010 NCAA Division I Softball season approaches, the Atlantic Sun Conference takes a look at each team leading up to the start of the season. Today, the spotlight shines on FGCU.

Overview

In 2009, FGCU finished with an overall record of 47-9 and 15-5 mark in the A-Sun. The Eagles return four starters, one pitcher, and eight of 19 letterwinners. Head coach Dave Deiros enters his eighth season with the Eagles, having tallied an overall record of 327-90-2 thus far. Last season, FGCU came up one win shy of clinching its second-straight championship. The Eagles spent 10 weeks of the season ranked among the nation’s top 25 teams. In 2009, FGCU registered a home record of 22-2 during its second season as a Division I program at the FGCU Softball Complex in Fort Myers, Fla. In two years in the league, the Eagles have won 46 of 53 at home.

Top Returners

Top hitter Courtney Platt earned A-Sun Preseason All-Conference honors after finishing the season with a .437 average, 10 home runs, 50 RBIs, and a .770 slugging percentage. As a sophomore, Platt earned Louisville Slugger/NFCA South All-Region First-Team honors.

Top hitter Lauran Ziegler enters the spring after an exceptional junior campaign with the Eagles in which she earned All-Atlantic Sun First-Team honors in her first season. The Palm Bay, Fla. native finished the season with a .388 batting average and a .444 on-base percentage. Ziegler led the A-Sun in hits (73), stolen bases (26), and runs scored (62).

In 2009, Jessica Gary started 55 games for the Eagles and finished the season with a .351 batting average, a .399 on-base percentage, 18 stolen bases, and 54 runs scored. In the A-Sun, Gary ranked in the top-five in runs scored and stolen bases. The Naples, Fla. native also hit eight doubles and one triple, in addition to 25 runs.

Top pitcher Catherine McDaniel earned Louisville Slugger/NFCA South All-Region First Team accolades in addition to Academic All-Conference honors. McDaniel finished the 2009 season with a team-best 22-1 record and posted an ERA of 1.85 in 143.2 innings. The Melbourne, Fla. native also racked up 112 strikeouts, tossed 15 complete games and registered six shutouts, including a no-hitter on Feb. 20.

Newcomers

FGCU projects at least four freshmen in the Eagles’ starting lineup and two fresh faces (one freshman and one junior college transfer) in the pitching rotation.

Even though these players are young and new to FGCU, they have winning backgrounds and championship pedigrees. Both Kelci Breaux and Stephanie Sullivan were highly decorated pitchers at their respective levels in the state of Florida. Breaux led her junior college to two consecutive state playoff berths while Sullivan led her team to two consecutive state Final Four finishes, including the state runner-up in 2009.

Tiffani Upchurch led her high school team to two state Final Fours including a state championship three years ago and a state runner-up last year. Mariah Fernandez led her high school to the state final four last year as well.

Schedule

The Eagles again take on a challenging slate as they face seven opponents who made the NCAA Tournament including Ohio State, a perennial top-25 program. The Eagles face the Buckeyes as a part of USF’s Tournament from March 19-21. The Eagles will take on five foes from the Big Ten, three from the Big East, a pair from the ACC, and Oklahoma State from the Big 12.

The Eagles open the year with three straight tournaments including their only home tournament of the season. FGCU opens the season at the USF/Best Western Tournament from Friday to Sunday. The Eagles will face Canisius, East Carolina, Illinois State, Long Island, and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets finished the 2009 season with a 46-15 overall record (17-3 ACC) and the won ACC Championship. Georgia Tech, who ranked No. 13 in the final USA Today/NFCA rankings, swept the NCAA Atlanta Regional by defeating Auburn, Boston University and Iowa, before falling to eventual national champion Washington in the NCAA Atlanta Super Regional.

The following week, the Eagles travel to the FIU Blue and Gold Felsburg Memorial Tournament. Wisconsin, Bethune-Cookman, Long Island and FIU will be the opponents for FGCU in the event. LIU, the 2009 Northeast Conference runner-up, return Bianca Mejia, a 2009 Second Team Easton All-American.

The Eagles then host their annual spring break tournament from Feb. 25-28. The tournament field will include Georgia Southern, Minnesota, Connecticut, Villanova, St. Francis (Pa.) and Eastern Michigan. A home doubleheader with Eastern Michigan and a single game at the FGCU Softball Complex against the Broncos of Western Michigan precedes three more tournaments, all hosted by USF. The Eagles will face Penn State, Fordham, Austin Peay, Villanova and St. Joseph’s in their second tourney at USF (March 5-7). FGCU will open Atlantic Sun Conference play on March 10 at home with a doubleheader against Kennesaw State.

The Blue and Green will then participate in two more USF tournaments, with a single game against Drake at the FGCU Softball Complex separating the two. The March 12-14 tournament at USF includes games against James Madison, New Mexico State, Central Michigan, Long Island and tourney host USF. The Eagles currently lead the all-time series with the Bulls 2-1, with USF winning the last meeting 4-3 on Feb. 8, 2009.

The fourth and final tournament at USF (March 19-21) will put the Eagles against four opponents from BCS conferences. The Blue and Green will open up with a matchup with Maryland, before facing Illinois, Oklahoma State, Northern Illinois and Ohio State. The Cowgirls received an at-large bid to the Tallahassee, Fla. Regional (lost to California in Region Final, 2-1). The Buckeyes finished the 2009 season ranked No. 11 in the ESPN/USA Softball Poll.

Following the final USF Tournament, FGCU will host Dartmouth in doubleheader action before diving into the bulk of the A-Sun Conference slate. The Atlantic Sun had one of the best years in league history, as the league finished 10th in the RPI. The Eagles get Jacksonville, UNF, Campbell and Mercer at home. They go on the road to face USC Upstate, ETSU, Stetson, Belmont and Lipscomb. The home schedule includes 21 games this season.

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11 Days of Atlantic Sun Softball Schedule

Jan. 28 – Belmont Jan.

29 – Stetson

Feb. 1 – ETSU

Feb. 2 – Kennesaw State

Feb. 3 – Jacksonville

Feb. 4 – UNF

Feb. 5 – USC Upstate

Feb. 8 – Mercer

Feb. 9 – Lipscomb

Feb. 10 – FGCU

Feb. 11 – Campbell