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FGCU Softball's Top 10 Moments: No. 5 First Playoff Win Against North Alabama
FORT MYERS, Fla. – With the start of the 2012 softball season fast approaching, FGCU softball is celebrating its 10th season of competition by counting down the Top 10 Moments in FGCU softball history.
The Eagles competed at the Division II level for their first five seasons, qualified for the postseason in two of their three eligible seasons, transitioned to Division I, joined the Atlantic Sun Conference, produced three Conference Players of the Year and three All-Americans, and won 382 games. After poring over more than 500 games of history, a panel selected the most significant events and will release one each day leading up to the first pitch of the 2012 season.
Next on the countdown at No. 5 - "The 2006 First playoff win against North Alabama” (May 11, 2006)
FGCU barely failed to qualify for the playoffs in their first attempt the year before. This time around, the Eagles left no doubt with a team record 35-game winning streak and a 57-7 regular season record that garnered them a berth to the postseason tournament. A month earlier on April 17th, the Eagles epic winning streak was broken after a 1-0 loss in the first game of the doubleheader on the road against Barry University. More notably, their mettle would be tested as FGCU’s leading hitter and run-producer, junior Jessica Rouse, broke her wrist in pre-game defensive drills.
“Even before Jessica’s hand injury, I knew she was a tough and hard-working person,” said Eagles' athletic trainer Betsy Kennedy (Esposito). "When J. Ro broke her hand she was really upset. It wasn't an injury she could play through so she missed contributing to the team.” The injury to Rouse was originally diagnosed as season-ending and the Eagles felt the immediate effects of not having her 18 homers in the lineup. They went 5-3 in their final regular season games which dropped them to a No. 5 seed. Thus the Eagles' first playoff game ever would be an opening round matchup with No. 4 seed North Alabama.
“In the weeks of healing after the injury, Jessica kept asking what else she could do for her hand,” added Kennedy. “Unfortunately, there's not too much that can be done to speed up bone healing, but she was willing to try anything. I gave her a special nutrition guide to make sure she was getting all the essential nutrients and avoiding things that may delay healing. She took a calcium supplement and was so determined to get back for the playoffs.”
Miraculously, Rouse was cleared to compete in the playoffs (three weeks ahead of schedule) and her presence paid immediate dividends in the FGCU first inning--she walked and scored on junior designated hitter Hilary Johnson’s RBI double. Rouse would get on base again two innings later with a single to left field and would score ahead of freshman third baseman Cheyenne Jenks’ seventh home run of the season. Junior first baseman Natasha Johnson would make it a 4-0 game when she hit her sixth homer of the season. Rouse capped the scoring when she hit a double down the right field line and scored when the right fielder threw the ball away trying to get her out at second base.
"Rouse was very patient and took great care of her body,” said Kennedy. “It was a lot of fun to see her play in the postseason because she really deserved that opportunity after all the work she put in.”
Sophomore Rachael Edinger was brilliant in the circle as she allowed three hits and one earned run while striking out three Lion hitters. The Eagles' all-time wins leader threw her 25th complete game of the season and earned her 26th victory of the season.
FGCU's 5-1 playoff win over the Lions capped a historic season in 2006. Their fourth consecutive winning season saw a record number of wins and still record winning streak. They also had their most productive season to date setting records for batting average, runs scored, and home runs in a season.
“We lost our entire pitching staff and many of our starters after the 2005 season," said head coach David Deiros. "It usually takes time for a new team to perform so well but this was a resilient group from the very beginning. They were the stepping stone for a remarkable four-year run in which we won 215 games.”
FGCU opens its 10th season for the fifth consecutive year at the USF Tournament where they will face the tournament host and No. 2 University of Florida on Friday, Feb. 10th.
The Eagles will unveil one moment per day for 10 consecutive days, and culminating with the No. 1 moment on Feb. 10th to coincide with the start of the season. You will be able to relive all the events at www.fgcuathletics.com/softball.
No. 10 – Comeback victory vs. UNF in extra innings in 2004
No. 9 – Walk-off win against #17 Valdosta State in 2007
No. 8 – Upset win vs. #13 DePaul in 2009
No. 7 - Seven Home Runs against Northwood in one inning in 2007
No. 6 – First Win in Program History against Fla. Southern in 2003
No. 5 – First playoff win against North Alabama in 2006