FORT MYERS, Fla. – The three seniors on the 2010 FGCU softball team went out as winners, sweeping the Bears of Mercer 4-3 and 5-2 on Saturday afternoon at the FGCU Softball Complex. But it was a pair of freshmen who were the heroes today, with Brittany Baker (Summerfield, Fla.) hitting a walk-off home run in game one and Erin Olson (Naples, Fla.) driving in three runs in game two.
With the wins, the Blue and Green finish the season with a 24-28 overall record, 12-8 in A-Sun games. Mercer drops to 22-29, 4-12 in conference.
The Bears opened the scoring, plating an unearned run in the third inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Mercer’s starting pitcher, Jenni Holtz, was perfect through 4.1 innings, racking up nine strikeouts in the process. But the Eagles were able to solve Holtz in the fifth, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead. Mariah Fernandez (Cape Coral, Fla.) drew a one-out walk, the first baserunner of the day for FGCU. Tiffani Upchurch (Lake Wales, Fla.) followed with a bloop single over the first baseman’s head that was kicked down the right field line by second baseman Amanda Santa Maria. When Santa Maria threw towards home plate to try to cut down the run, her throw sailed into the third base dugout, allowing both Fernandez and Upchurch to come around and score.
The Bears' Stephanie Canara quickly tied the game with a leadoff home run in the top of the sixth, knotting the score at 2-2.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Blue and Green regained the lead, playing small ball to score their third run of the game. Courtney Platt (Greenville, Ohio) reached on a bunt single with one out, and promptly stole second. Two batters later, Fernandez hit a little dribbler between the pitcher and first baseman, which she beat out at first base for an infield hit. Hustling all the way, Platt came around to score from second base on the play, giving FGCU a 3-2 lead.
Once again, Mercer had an answer, this time in the person of Sara Stukes. Stukes hit a solo home run with one out in the seventh, tying the game once again, this time at 3-3. Stephanie Sullivan (Venice, Fla.) came on to relieve Cat McDaniel (Melbourne, Fla.) two batters later. Sullivan was able to limit the damage, inducing a soft liner to third to end the inning, leaving the bases loaded.
The Eagles would find an unlikely hero in the bottom of the seventh inning. After two quick outs, Baker stepped up to the plate, sporting a .125 average and one home run on the season, and facing Holtz, who had allowed just one earned run and totaled 15 strikeouts to that point. Baker came through in the clutch, launching a solo shot down the left field line that clanked off the foul pole, giving the Eagles a 4-3 walk-off victory.
Platt, Fernandez, Upchurch, and Baker each collected one hit and one run scored. Fernandez and Baker picked up one RBI apiece.
McDaniel got the start and was given a no decision. The redshirt junior pitched six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits, walking two and striking out three. Sullivan picked up the win in relief, improving to 5-6 on the year. Sullivan pitched a scoreless inning, allowing only an intentional walk.
In game two, the Bears would once again get on the board first. Mercer strung together three hits in the third, scoring twice to take a 2-0 lead.
The Eagles would quickly respond, plating four runs in the bottom half of the inning. Jessica Gary (Naples, Fla.) and Platt collected back-to-back one-out singles to start the rally. After a pop out, Fernandez singled, scoring Gary from second. Upchurch followed with an infield single, and advanced to second on an error by Stukes, which allowed Platt to score. Olson put the Eagles in front, lacing a double down the left field line, scoring both Fernandez and Upchurch.
FGCU added an insurance run in the fifth on Olson’s RBI single that brought home Fernandez, giving the Eagles a 5-2 lead. The Blue and Green would go on to win by the same score, sweeping the doubleheader.
Olson finished the game 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs. Fernandez was 1-for-2 with a walk, an RBI, and two runs scored.
Kelci Breaux (Okeechobee, Fla.) earned the win, leveling her record at 9-9 on the season. The junior pitched 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out three. Sullivan came on in relief, pitching 2.1 scoreless innings to notch her third save of the year. Sullivan allowed three hits and a walk, striking out one.
After the games were over, the FGCU softball team held their annual post-season banquet and awards ceremony. Head coach David Deiros handed out his team superlative awards to four players. Junior Courtney Platt took home the honor of Offensive Player of the Year, while senior Lauran Ziegler earned Defensive Player of the Year honors. Newcomer of the Year went to freshman Mariah Fernandez, and the Most Valuable Player award was given to senior Jessica Gary.