FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU softball team concluded day one of the USF The Game tournament at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater, Fla. with a pair of losses. The Eagles fell to No. 21 Illinois, 6-1, before losing to Maryland, 3-0. Lauran Ziegler (Palm Bay, Fla.) led the FGCU offense, finishing the day 4-for-8 at the plate.
Illinois (18-2) opened up an early lead with a two-run home run from Hope Howell in the bottom of the first inning. The lead grew to 3-0 when three of the first four batters singled in the bottom of the second, leading to another Illini run.
The Eagles got on the board in the top of the third when Tiffani Upchurch (Lake Wales, Fla.) hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Jessica Gary (Naples, Fla.). FGCU would have an opportunity to trim the lead once again in the fourth inning, but Mariah Fernandez (Cape Coral, Fla.) grounded out to end the inning, leaving the bases loaded.
A pair of fifth-inning home runs helped Illinois extend the lead to 6-1, which would eventually be the final score.
The Blue and Green left at least one runner on base in all seven innings, totaling 13 runners stranded in the ballgame.
Catherine McDaniel (Melbourne, Fla.) took the loss, falling to 5-9 on the season. McDaniel allowed four runs on eight hits, walking two (one intentional) and striking out three. Stephanie Sullivan (Venice, Fla.) gave up two runs on four hits in two innings of relief work, striking out two batters.
Ziegler finished the game 3-for-4, while Gary and Courtney Platt (Greenville, Ohio) each picked up a pair of hits.
In game two, Maryland (14-9) used a pair of pitchers to stifle the Eagles’ offense, holding FGCU to just three hits in the game.
The Terrapins took the lead in the top of the third, taking advantage of a handful of miscues to score twice. Maryland recorded three infield singles in the inning, while FGCU gave up a walk, hit a batter, threw a wild pitch, allowed a passed ball, and committed a throwing error.
Maryland added another run in the top of the fifth, again without hitting the ball out of the infield. A pair of infield singles and a walk coupled with an error gave the Terps a 3-0 lead.
The Eagles generated their best scoring opportunity of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. Gary reached on a dropped pop-up by the third baseman, and Platt followed with a four-pitch walk. After Fernandez struck out, Hayley O’Mara (Naples, Fla.) singled, loading the bases with only one out. But Maryland’s Kerry Hickey was able to strike out Upchurch and Erin Olson (Naples, Fla.), ending the inning without giving up a run.
Hickey set the Eagles down in order in the bottom of the seventh to pick up her first save of the season, securing the 3-0 victory for Maryland over the Blue and Green.
Kelci Breaux (Okeechobee, Fla.) pitched a complete game, taking the loss to fall to 3-5 on the season. Breaux allowed three runs (one earned) on nine hits, walking two and striking out nine.
Ziegler, Platt, and O’Mara each collected one hit for FGCU, the only three hits in the game for the Blue and Green.
The Eagles continue play in the USF The Game tournament tomorrow with a pair of games. FGCU takes on No. 18 Oklahoma State at 10 a.m. before facing Northern Illinois at noon.