Eagles Take First Round NCAA Tournament From Lions 5-1
LAKELAND, FLA. – The No. 25 ranked Florida Gulf Coast University softball team played their first game in the NCAA Division II national tournament today. The No. 5 seed Eagles (58-7) defeated No. 4 seed North Alabama (38-20) in the first round of South Region play.
The Eagles jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over the Lions in the top of the first inning. In her first game back from a late-season injury, junior slugger Jessica Rouse (Jacksonville, Fla.) led off the inning with a walk off North Alabama’s starting pitcher Stephanie Glienke (Houston, TX). Rouse scored on a double by sophomore Hillary Johnson (Fort Myers, Fla.), who smashed a line drive up the middle for her 11th double and her 28th RBI.
In the top of the third, Rouse hit a single up the middle. Freshman Cheyenne Jenks (Naples, Fla.) smashed a homer over the left field fence scoring Rouse. Jenks collected the two RBI and her seventh homerun of the
season giving the Eagles the early 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third the Lions junior shortstop Emily Beckwith (Cullman, AL) hit a double to center field but that was the end of the offensive push as the Eagles closed out the inning with two routine outs.
In the Top of the fourth inning junior first baseman Natasha Johnson (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) hit a solo homerun over the left field fence to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead. This was Johnson’s sixth homerun of the season.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Lion's Jessica Liddy (Jupiter, FL) was hit by Edinger's pitch. The Eagle's Rouse caught two fly balls in left-field to conclude the inning.
Senior Krystal Hand (Blythe, CA) was next at bat. Hand reached second on a two base error that allowed Liddy to score. With the Lions down only 4-1 the Eagles sealed the inning with an easy out at first.
In the top of the fifth inning Rouse hit a double down the right field line. She made it home on a two base error by the Lions right fielder when the throw to the infield sailed passed second base giving the Eagles a 5-1 lead. Hillary Johnson walked and sophomore Christa Piquette (Barrington, RI) came in to pinch run for her.
Freshman right-fielder LeeAnne Mcdowell (Arcadia, Fla.) hit a double to left center and Piquette was called out at home as the Lion's catcher applied the tag.
In the bottom of the fifth inning junior Beckwith hit a single to right field, her second hit of the game. Beckwith was called out at second off of a fielder’s choice hit by sophomore Lindsey Greene (Decatur, AL). With Greene on first Kristin Maas (Valrico, Fla.) hit a pop fly right to Eagle third baseman Jenks to end the inning.
In the seventh inning, the Lions were unable to add a run and the game ended 5-1 with the Eagles earning their 58th victory of the season. This game was historic as it is the first NCAA tournament victory in school history for the Florida Gulf Coast University softball team.
The Eagles were led in the circle by sophomore pitcher Rachael Edinger who is from the host city of Lakeland, Florida. Edinger pitched her 25th complete game of the season going seven innings versus the Lions. She threw three strikeouts against the strong hitting Lions and only allowed three hits and one run. Edinger now has 259 total strikeouts for the season in 201 innings pitched.
The starting pitcher for the Lions was Glienke who pitched three innings with three runs on five hits with five strikeouts. Sophomore Sabrina Roberts (Decatur, AL) came in the game to pitch two innings for the Lions. Roberts had one strikeout and gave up three hits with two runs and a walk. The seventh inning was pitched by freshman Megan Niesel (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.).
The Eagles will now advance to round two of the NCAA South Region winner’s bracket, They will take on the winner of game four between No. 1 seed Florida Southern and No. 8 seed Kentucky state tomorrow at 7:00 pm at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida.
FIRST ROUND NCAA SOUTH REGION
Game One: #3 seed Alabama-Huntsville (49-15) defeated #6 seed Saint Leo (37-19) 2-1 in 13 innings
Game Two: #2 seed Barry (38-11) defeated #7 seed Valdosta State (38-23) 1-0 in 7 innings
Game Three: #5 seed Florida Gulf Coast (58-7) defeated #4 seed North Alabama (39-19) 5-1 in 7 innings.
Game Four: #1 seed Florida Southern (49-5) vs. #8 seed Kentucky State (25-8) 7:00 pm TBA