MACON, Ga. – Despite dropping Mercer, 7-1, in game one, the FGCU softball team’s comeback fell short as it lost, 3-2, in the seventh inning in game two in Atlantic Sun action on Saturday afternoon at Sikes Field.
FGCU moves to 20-20 on the season, but more importantly 3-1 in conference play. Mercer improves to 18-14 and 2-6 in the A-Sun.
Game one opened with two scoreless innings before FGCU got on the board in the third when freshman Regan Knapik (Land O’Lakes, Fla./Wiregrass Ranch) scored on a passed ball to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. Knapik led off the inning with a walk and moved around the bases on a Mercer miscue and a fly out.
Knapik, who ended the day with three RBI, struck again with a two-RBI single down the left line to make it a four-run game in the fourth, scoring freshman Brittney Garabedian (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) and Kirsten Bembnowski (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake). Garabedian reached base on a walk before advancing to third on Bembnowski’s double. Senior Courtney Platt (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast) then tallied an RBI single to score Knapik for the third run of the inning, giving FGCU a 4-0 lead.
Mercer put a run on the board in the bottom of the frame taking advantage of an FGCU error to cut the lead to 4-1. Besides the run, Tiffany Phillips, who went 2-for-3 in the game, was the only other Bear to reach third base.
Garabedian fired a two-run shot over the left field wall to push the lead to 6-1 in the fifth. Olson scored on the home run after reaching on an error by the Mercer shortstop.
FGCU added one more run in the sixth as freshman Amanda Josie (Estero, Fla./Estero) pinch hit with a RBI-single through the left side, scoring sophomore Chelsea Yates (Boynton Beach, Fla./Park Vista) from third. Yates pinch ran for Bembnowski, who led off the inning with a walk.
Redshirt senior pitcher Catherine McDaniel (Melbourne, Fla./Florida Tech) (9-9) earned the complete game win, surrendering one unearned run on seven hits and no walks, while striking out two. Despite fanning nine batters, Mercer starter Jenni Holtz (9-7) took the loss, giving up seven hits, three walks and six runs (three earned) in 4.2 innings of work.
Mercer looked to have the second game in hand after scoring a run in the fourth and fifth innings to lead 2-0, but FGCU staged a two-run rally in the top of the seventh.
A walk sandwiched between two singles loaded the bases before Knapik hit a sacrifice fly to plate McDaniel who was pinch running for Bembnowski. With two outs, the Eagles put runners on each base again on an intentional walk before a Mercer error brought in the tying run, but a line out ended FGCU’s rally.
The game looked to be heading to extra innings as FGCU recorded two early outs in the bottom half of the seventh. However, Sarah Santana reached on an FGCU miscue and moved into scoring position on a single. Sara Stukes then dropped the first pitch she saw into shallow left field and Santana was able to beat the throw at home to score the game-winning run.
Kari Chambers (8-7) earned the win, giving up just four hits and one earned run, while striking out eight. Sophomore relief pitcher Stephanie Sullivan (Venice, Fla./Venice) (3-4) got the loss, giving up five hits and one run in 1.2 innings. Senior Kelci Breaux (Okeechobee, Fla./Brevard CC) started for the Eagles, surrendering five hits, one walk and two runs in five innings of work.
Bembnowski went 3-for-6 on the day with a walk and one run scored, while Platt had two doubles and picked up three walks.
FGCU continues A-Sun play, traveling north to play a doubleheader at Kennesaw State on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Owls split with Stetson on Saturday. Live stats for each game are available at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com.