FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU softball team picked up a 6-0 win on the strength of 11 hits in game one, before dropping a 7-4 heartbreaker to visiting Belmont on Saturday afternoon at the FGCU Softball Complex.
The split snaps a seven-game winning streak and drops FGCU to second place with an 11-3 record in A-Sun play and 28-22 overall, while Belmont improves to 10-31 and 3-11 in the A-Sun.
Freshman Tori Williams (Dunnellon, Fla./Dunnellon) led the way for the Eagles, going 6-for-6 on the day with a walk and two runs scored. Sophomore Mariah Fernández (Cape Coral, Fla./North Fort Myers) was 4-for-7 with a team-high three RBI.
In the opening game, senior Courtney Platt (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast) continued FGCU’s trend of scoring in the first inning, sending a two-out solo shot to right field for an early 1-0 edge.
FGCU added another run in the bottom of the second when freshman Emily Lanier (St. Cloud, Fla./Harmony), who doubled to right field, crossed the plate on classmate Regan Knapik’s (Land O’Lakes, Fla./Wiregrass Ranch) sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, Fernández knocked a well-placed single to right field to bring in Platt and Williams. An error by the Bruins’ right fielder allowed Fernández to score from second for a 5-0 lead.
Belmont threatened in the sixth, but redshirt senior Catherine McDaniel (Melbourne, Fla./Florida Tech) worked out of a bases loaded jam and got the last batter swinging.
The Eagles tacked on its final run when freshman Brittney Garabedian (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) reached on a walk before advancing around the bases on three illegal pitches for the 6-0 win.
McDaniel (14-9) earned her second shutout in as many games, sharing it with senior Kelci Breaux (Okeechobee, Fla./Brevard CC) who had one hitless inning of relief work. McDaniel gave up just three hits and no walks, while fanning five batters in six innings. Devon Schmidt (8-16) struck out three in the loss, giving up five runs (four earned) on 10 hits and four walks.
For the first time in five games, the Eagles did not score a run in the first inning, but got things going in the third with two runs. Platt, who reached on a walk, advanced on a throwing error and a wild pitch, crossed the plate on a passed ball. Redshirt sophomore Kayla Gabel (Lakeland, Fla./State College of Florida) then hit a two-out RBI-double, giving FGCU a 2-0 lead.
Belmont took a 4-2 lead in the fifth and never looked back, starting the inning with back-to-back singles, to put two on for Hannah Irwin’s RBI-single to centerfield. An FGCU error loaded the bases and Ashley Byers sent a 1-2 pitch through the left side for another run. With bases still loaded with one out, a bad throw on an attempted double play, pushed two more across to cap the four-run inning. Breaux, who came into relief a batter earlier, got out of the jam though striking out the last batter to end the inning.
The Bruins added to their lead in the sixth on Julie Harmon’s double to right center, plating Kelley Cash who reached on a single before advancing sacrifice bunt.
The Eagles brought the score to within one, 5-4, in the sixth, loading the bases on a nicely placed bunt single from Williams and a pair of walks. Fernández fired a hard hit ball through the first baseman’s legs to plate sophomore Chelsea Yates (Boynton Beach, Fla./Park Vista) before a ground out pushed another run across. With the runners on second and third, the Eagles left their 10th and 11th runners stranded on a foul out.
Belmont fought back in the seventh, pushing the lead to 7-4 on a two-run longball over the left field wall. An attempted sacrifice bunt with one out was spoiled as Lanier tagged the runner out at home and Breaux got the last batter swinging for a possible comeback.
Unfortunately the thought was short lived as FGCU could not get anything going in the bottom of the frame as Belmont retired the batters in order to earn the win.
Sophomore Stephanie Sullivan (Venice, Fla./Venice) (6-6) got tagged with the loss, surrendering four runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk, while striking out five in 4.1 innings of work. In her second relief performance of the day, Breaux gave up three runs on seven hits while fanning two in 2.2 innings.
Belmont’s starting pitcher Becca Gift (1-4) picked up her first win of the season, giving up five hits, seven walks en route to four runs (three earned) in five innings. Schmidt picked up the save giving up just one hit and a walk in two innings.
Before game two, seniors Nicole Boswell (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram Trail), Breaux, McDaniel and Platt were honored in a senior day presentation.
FGCU now heads north to Jacksonville (33-14, 12-2 A-Sun) to face the Dolphins in a conference doubleheader on Monday at 4:30 p.m. before traveling across town to UNF (21-26, 5-9) for two games on Tuesday at 3 p.m.