FGCU Opens Nine-Game Home Stand with Extra Inning Sweep of Jacksonville
Saturday, April 13, 2013 | by Andrew Piper (@ADPiper7)
FGCU will look for the three-game sweep on Sunday, April 14 at 1 p.m. (Photo by Linwood Ferguson)
FGCU will look for the three-game sweep on Sunday, April 14 at 1 p.m. (Photo by Linwood Ferguson)
Jacksonville (30-13, 11-6 A-Sun)
FGCU (28-15, 9-6 A-Sun)
4/13/2013 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 163
Win: OWEN (8-6) 5.022223
Loss: ROSSMAN (5-6) 1.211022
BROWN (JU) 634201

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Returning home after a six-game road trip to begin a nine-game home stand, the FGCU softball team (29-15, 10-6 A-Sun) swept its doubleheader against in-state rival and conference foe Jacksonville on Saturday at the FGCU Softball Complex with the two games totaling 20 innings.

The two teams opened the day with a back and forth game one that saw FGCU battle back on numerous occasions to win 10-9 in 10 innings. Game two consisted of the pitchers for both squads finding success early on and FGCU once again displaying its resilience to come out on top in 10 innings, 6-5, with both of the day’s games having elapsed three hours in length.

“It was a couple of marathon games against a real difficult opponent,” said head coach David Deiros. “You have to give Jacksonville a lot of credit as they took it to us the entire day, but our kids just did a great job of persevering to come back and prevail in both games so I can’t be any prouder.”

Entering the day in second place in the A-Sun standings, Jacksonville (30-14, 11-7 A-Sun) placed multiple runners on base in the top half of the first. With timely hitting and runners in scoring position, the Dolphins brought two runs across to strike first and jump out front 2-0.

Looking to jump on the Jacksonville starting pitcher from the start, FGCU worked the pitch count for a walk and a trio of hit batters to load the bases with two outs. The Eagles would use a base on balls and a hit batter to reload the bases and bring two runs across in the home half of the first and tie the game 2-2 through one inning of play.

With a runner on first and one away in the top of the second, 2013 Preseason All-Atlantic Sun team selection Kirsten Bembnowski (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake HS) snagged a line drive out of mid-air and fired across the diamond to first base for an inning-ending double play.

After junior starting pitcher Amanda Josie (Estero, Fla./Estero HS) kept Jacksonville batters in check in the top of the second, FGCU stepped back up to the plate. A-Sun Player of the Week Jessica Barnes (Winter Haven, Fla./Haines City HS) reached base on a walk and stole second to put herself in prime scoring position. With 2013 Preseason A-Sun Player of the Year Chelsea Zgrabik (Venice, Fla.Venice HS) stepped to the plate and dropped in a shallow base hit to bring Barnes in, giving FGCU a 3-2 lead, its first of the game.

In the top of the third inning, Sarah Simon sent a pitch over the center field wall with a runner on base to plate two runs for Jacksonville, putting them back on top 4-3.

FGCU used timely hitting of its own on multiple occasions throughout game one and it loomed large in the home half of the third as Bembnowski found success at the plate as well by sending a rocket shot to left center field with a runner on second base, giving the Eagles a 5-4 advantage.

The Green and Blue defense found itself in a pressure-filled situation with the bases loaded and one out for Jacksonville in the top of the fifth inning. A single up the middle scored two runs for the Dolphins, putting them ahead and marking the fifth lead change of the contest. The visitors were able to reload the bases and score another run, this time courtesy of a base on balls to go up 7-5 heading into the bottom of the fifth.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, FGCU looked to rally in an effort to extend the game with hopes for a victory. Once Emily Lanier reached base on a four pitch walk, senior Kayla Gabel (Lakeland, Fla./State College of Florida) took Lanier’s place at first as a pinch runner. It was then time for Mariah Fernandez (Cape Coral, Fla./North Fort Myers HS) to take her cuts at the plate. Fernandez came through for the Eagles by stroking a triple to left center that plated Gabel and drew FGCU within one run of Jacksonville.

Bembnowski was up next for the Eagles, and the junior infielder once again provided an offensive boost for the Green and Blue as she sent a pitch to center field for a sacrifice fly that got the job done by bringing Fernandez home and tying the game at seven runs apiece, sending the game into extra innings.

Once in the eighth inning of game one, Jacksonville placed a runner in scoring position on a walk and a sacrifice bunt to put themselves in prime position to score the go-ahead run. Outfielder Victoria Brown stepped to the plate for the Dolphins in the leadoff spot and swung on a pitch from relief pitcher Jackie Owen (Cape Coral, Fla./Daytona State College) that left the FGCU Softball Complex, putting Jacksonville on top 9-7.

Down to their final out in the home half of the eighth, FGCU showed its resiliency once again as Zgrabik swung on and drove a pitch to deep left field with Tori Williams (Dunnellon, Fla./Dunnellon HS) on first base to bring two runs home and draw even with a 9-9 score.

The Eagles continued to battle in the eight as they used a bunt single, a base on balls and a hit batter to load the bases, but were unable to plate a run for the walk-off triumph.

Poised from inside the circle, junior transfer Owen retired the Dolphins with ease in the ninth to keep the score tied and give her offense a chance to end the game in the bottom of the ninth.

The relief pitchers for both squads were able to keep opposing batters tamed until the game turned to the bottom of the 10th. With the international tiebreaker in affect, FGCU placed Williams on first as a result of her being the last Eagle batter to be retired. A wild pitch advanced Williams to third and a walk placed Zgrabik on first. Sophomore Kelsey Carpenter (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) stepped to the plate and struck a sacrifice fly to left field, Williams tagged third, darted for home and slid home safely to give the Green and Blue the 10-9 walk-off win in extra innings.

After tossing five innings and collecting the game one victory, Jackie Owen re-entered the circle as the game two starter for FGCU.

Jacksonville scored in the first inning just in the first game of the day to take an early, 1-0, lead over FGCU after plating a runner from second base with a base knock.

Being on their home field for the first time since March 30, the Eagles would not back down as a leadoff triple for Barnes in the top of the first had the home team primed to score. Williams followed Barnes in the batting order and an infield groundout brought Barnes home to tie the game at one.

The next time the Dolphins were back in the batter’s box, they ensured the game would not remain tied for long as a single through the right side that was just out of the reach of a diving Brittney Garabedian (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep HS) pulled across a run to put Jacksonville ahead 2-1.

Cranking up the intensity and looking for the sweep, Fernandez reached second on a fielder’s choice, followed by a stolen base. Bembnowski then stepped to the plate and drove in Fernandez for her fourth RBI of the day after recording three in the first game of the day.

With the bases loaded and no outs, relief pitcher Amanda Josie found herself under pressure from the Jacksonville offense in the top of the fifth. An impressive 5-2-3 double play prevented a runner from scoring an got the force out at first base to collect two outs. Looking to jump back in front on the scoreboard with runners on second and third, the Dolphins attempted to capitalize. Jacksonville believed to have a single through the right side of the infield that would score two, but alert defense allowed for a throw-out at first on a putout from Williams in right field to Lanier at first base.

Both pitchers continued to battle with opposing batters, keeping them in check, as the game went into extra innings after neither team could pull ahead before the end of the seventh inning.

Finding themselves in extra innings for the second time of the day, the Eagle defense took the field. With loaded bases and one out, Jacksonville cashed in on the occasion with a single through the left side of the infield, putting them ahead 3-2 and reloading the bases. The Dolphin lineup was not done yet as a double scored two more runs for insurance purposes and gave the visitors a 5-2 lead with cushion.

As the game shifted to the home half of the eighth, the Eagle lineup looked to make a dent in the three-run deficit to extend the game. A leadoff double from Carpenter, a hit by pitch for Lanier and a bloop single loaded the bases for FGCU as the Eagles found themselves in an ideal position for a rally. Freshman Hannah Horwath (Lake Mary, Fla./Lake Mary HS) entered as a pinch hitter and the Lake Mary product plated Carpenter on a groundout to make it 5-3 and move the runners to second and third.

Coach Deiros once again went to his reserves for a pinch hitter, this time for Alexis “Louie” Ross (Cape Coral, Fla./Ida S. Baker HS). Ross got a pitch she liked and the result was a double to the wall that scored the two Eagles in scoring position to tie the game at five and keep FGCU alive for the sweep.

With the international tiebreaker rule in effect once the game turned to the 10th inning, Carpenter took second base after being the last Eagle to be retired in the ninth. Carpenter then advanced to third on a well-placed sacrifice bunt from Lanier to put FGCU one base away from the victory.

After knocking in three runs in game one and another early on in game two, Bembnowski stepped into the batter’s box with one out and aiming to drive in the game-winning run. The 2013 Preseason All-Atlantic Sun team selection did just that with a single through the left side to bring Carpenter in and lock up a 6-5 walk-off victory in ten innings for the Green and Blue.

FGCU has now won five straight contests over Jacksonville with each of the five coming in walk-off fashion for the Eagles. At the conclusion of the twin billing, the Eagles and Dolphins have met a total of 13 times with FGCU having won 11 of those all-time meetings.

The Eagles and Dolphins will face off for the final game of the trio of contests on Sunday, April 14 at 1 p.m. from the FGCU Softball Complex. FGCU will go for the series sweep after having already collected the series victory by taking the first two contests.

For tickets, visit www.FGCUATHLETICS.com/tickets online or call the FGCU ticket office at 239-590-7145. Tickets are also available for purchase upon entrance to the FGCU Softball Complex.

In-game Twitter updates (@FGCU_Softball), results and a recap from the day’s action will be available at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com.