CLEARWATER, Fla. – After two tough losses on Friday, the FGCU softball team bounced back with a pair of convincing victories on Saturday at the Under Armour Invitational in Clearwater, Fla. The Eagles pounded Austin Peay 10-0 in five innings before defeating Villanova 15-8. With the wins, FGCU improves to 9-10 on the season.
The Eagles took an early lead over Austin Peay (4-11), as a two-run home run off the bat of Catherine McDaniel (Melbourne, Fla.) gave the Blue and Green a 2-0 lead in the second inning. For McDaniel, it was not only the first home run of the season, but it was the first home run she had ever hit at any level of competition.
The offense really came to life in the fourth inning, when the Eagles exploded for eight runs. The Blue and Green plated a run on a bases loaded error, and scored another run on an infield single from Erin Olson (Naples, Fla.). Jessica Gary (Naples, Fla.) broke the game open with a bases loaded double that short-hopped the left field fence, which scored all three runners. The next batter, Courtney Platt (Greenville, Ohio), cranked an opposite field two-run home run. Two batters later, Hayley O’Mara (Naples, Fla.) drilled a double over the center fielder’s head to score Mariah Fernandez (Cape Coral, Fla.), giving FGCU a 10-0 lead.
The lead would remain 10-0 through five innings, ending the game early by virtue of the eight-run mercy rule, giving FGCU their first run-rule victory of the season.
Stephanie Sullivan (Venice, Fla.) pitched a solid game for the Eagles, never allowing an Austin Peay runner to advance past second base. Sullivan (2-1) went the full five innings, allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out six.
Seven of the nine Eagle starters scored at least one run, while five different players drove in at least one run. Fernandez finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored, while O’Mara was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI.
The bats continued to shine against Villanova, with the Blue and Green scoring four times in the top of the first. Platt drove in Ziegler with a sac fly for the first run, and Gary came home on a wild pitch to make it 2-0. Fernandez and O’Mara scored the third and fourth runs, both coming on illegal pitch calls.
After the Wildcats put one run on the board in the bottom of the first, Fernandez singled home Gary in the top of the second to put the Eagles in front 5-1.
Danielle Maricle’s two-run home run trimmed the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the second, but FGCU would respond once again, scoring three times in the top of the third. Ziegler singled home McDaniel to make it 6-3, and Gary followed up with a single of her own, driving in Olson. Ziegler also scored on the play when Maricle’s throw sailed over everyone on the infield, giving the Eagles an 8-3 advantage.
Villanova did not go down quietly, scoring five runs in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 8-8. Four hits and an error led to the five runs, but McDaniel kept the game tied by striking out Julie Smith with the bases loaded to end the inning.
The Eagles quickly regained the lead, using a pair of home runs in the top of the fifth to take a 13-8 lead. After back-to-back walks to start the inning, Fernandez hit her first collegiate home run to put FGCU in front, 11-8. Three batters later, freshman Tiffani Upchurch (Lake Wales, Fla.) connected for her third home run, a two-run shot to give the Eagles a five-run cushion.
In the top of the sixth, Platt launched a long two-run home run to center field, her second of the day, giving the Eagles a 15-8 lead. FGCU would go on to win by the same score.
McDaniel got the start in the circle, pitching four innings to earn the win, improving to 4-5 on the season. McDaniel allowed eight runs on 10 hits, walking two and striking out eight. Kelci Breaux (Okeechobee, Fla.) came on in relief, pitching three shutout innings to pick up her first save. Breaux allowed just one hit and collected one strikeout.
Every Eagle starter reached base at least once, and eight different Eagles scored at least one run. Gary finished 2-for-3 with a walk, three runs scored, and an RBI, while Fernandez was 2-for-2 with a home run, two walks, two runs scored, and four RBIs.
The Eagles wrap up the Under Armour Invitational with a single game against St. Joseph’s on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.