FORT MYERS, Fla. – The ETSU softball team had its chance to knock off the most explosive team in the Atlantic Sun on Saturday afternoon, but when it was all said and done, Florida Gulf Coast capitalized on clutch two-out hitting to pull off a sweep over the Lady Bucs.
The Eagles rallied past the Lady Bucs in both contests – winning the first game 11-5 – and FGCU capped off the afternoon with a 5-4 victory in the nightcap from the FGCU Softball Complex.
With the sweep, the nationally-ranked Eagles have now won 29 of their last 30 games to improve to 37-5, 7-1.
The Lady Bucs struck first in the top of the second when Cheniece Cason beat out a two-out chopper to short, which plated Vicki McCoy – giving ETSU an early 1-0 lead. McCoy reached on a throwing error by second baseman Christa Piquette (Barrington, R.I.) and took second after the ball went out of play. On the next at-bat, Annie Martin laid down a sac bunt and led to McCoy advancing to third.
Darci Gilbert kept the highest scoring team in the league off the board in the first two innings, but the Eagles didn’t stay grounded for long. FGCU’s Lauran Ziegler (Palm Bay, Fla.) led off the bottom of the third with a single to left and scored on Jessica Paez’s (Belle Glade, Fla.) two-run homer to left – putting the Eagles up 2-1.
The Lady Bucs didn’t trail for long as they scored three runs on four hits in the top of the fourth and regained the lead, 4-2. Martin walked and moved to third when Cason singled to right. Katy Jett loaded the bases when she reached on an infield single to short, and Powell tied the game at 2-all when her single to right scored Martin. Then, with one out and the bases full, Massenzo singled to short and Paez went home to try to get Cason out at the plate, but the Cason beat the throw – and after the ball ricocheted to the backstop – Jett was able to come home to make it a 4-2 ballgame. After FGCU intentionally walked Hackworth to once again load the bases, Cat McDaniel (Melbourne, Fla.) worked out of the jam by striking out the next two ETSU batters.
The Eagles struck again in the bottom half of the inning and chased Gilbert out of the game after she couldn’t work out of a one-out jam. Piquette was the first runner to get on board when she doubled to the gap in right and Ziegler worked a one-out walk, which placed runners on first and second. Gilbert then forced Jessica Gary (Naples, Fla.) to ground to short, but the Cason couldn’t handle the ball and loaded the bases for FGCU. After Paez cut the deficit to 4-3 on a bases loaded walk, ETSU made the switch to Marissa Hardy in the circle. Cheyenne Jenks (Naples, Fla.) then doubled to left-center and scored two runs to put Eagles back up, 5-4. FGCU pushed two more runs across the plate when Jessica Carter (Ocala, Fla.) singled; however, she ended the inning when she tried to take second on the throw home. Paez continued to haunt the Lady Bucs and FGCU broke the game wide open in the fifth when she homered for the second time in the contest. However, this time Paez’s bomb was a two-out grand slam and the Eagles extended its lead to, 11-4.
Cat Zyskowski came in to pinch hit for the Lady Bucs and hit a one-out pitch over the wall in left – making it an 11-5 contest in the seventh, but that would be as close as the Lady Bucs would get and the Eagles took game one by the same score.
McDaniel moved her record to a perfect 16-0 after allowed five runs on 10 hits.
In game two, the Lady Bucs took an early 1-0 lead when Annie Martin came around to score on a roller to short. The Eagles threatened in the bottom half of the inning, but Darci Gilbert got out of the situation by forcing Gary to ground out to short.
After being held scoreless for the first three innings, the Eagles responded with a run in the bottom of the fourth. Courtney Platt (Naples, Fla.) led off the inning with a solo home run to center.
Trisha Massenzo stepped up in the next inning and sent a two-out full-count pitch over the wall in left and it put ETSU back up, 2-1. The Lady Bucs continued to add to their lead later in the inning when Annie Martin singled home Jessie Hackworth and moved Cat Zyskowski to third. Then, with runners on the corners, ETSU’s double-steal call worked, as Zyskowski touched the plate before Martin was tagged out in a rundown – giving ETSU a 4-1 lead.
Florida Gulf Coast chipped away and cut the deficit to one (4-3) by plating two runs on one hit in the bottom of the sixth.
Then, an inning later, ETSU looked to have everything wrapped up when Jenks lined into a double play at third but a hit batter and an error by Jett at second led to consecutive singles by the Eagles (one by Platt and the game-winner by Lindsey Green), which scored the game-winning runs and FGCU capped off the sweep with a 5-4 victory.
Morgan Campen (Rougemont, N.C.) was issued the win (2-0) after tossing two scoreless innings in relief of Dana Frantz (Brighton, Mich.).
FGCU returns to action on Friday afternoon when they face the Mercer Bears in Macon, Ga. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.