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FGCU Softball's Top 10 Moments: No. 4 Winning the USF Tournament in 2009
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. 4 - "Winning the USF Tournament in 2009” (Mar. 13-15, 2009)
FGCU entered the USF Under Armour Showcase winners of 17 consecutive games and with an overall record of 25-4. Four of the five teams they were slated to face in the event had qualified for the postseason the year before so it would be a good test for the relative newcomers to Division I.
“We had just moved up into the rankings for Division I Softball so we had a lot to live up to, especially since this was our first time being ranked in a poll,” said senior third baseman Cheyenne Jenks.
What ensued were five tough games that would test the mettle and prove the resilience of this team. The Green and Blue seemingly found a new hero late in each one of the games.
Friday's first game pitted the Eagles against Ball State and the Green and Blue opened a 4-1 lead after 5 innings. The Cardinals responded by tying the game at 4-4 in the top of the sixth and sent the game to extra innings. Using the International Tie Breaker rule, Ball State would take the lead 5-4 in the top of the eighth to set up the Eagles final at bat.
FGCU rallied as Jenks singled home senior shortstop Jessica Paez to tie the game at 5-5. Senior first baseman Jessica Carter followed with a single to left field that scored Jenks to give the Eagles the walk-off 6-5 win.
In Friday's second game, the Green and Blue completed their tour of the state of Indiana by playing the Hoosiers. FGCU shocked Indiana early with a four-run first inning capped by senior designated hitter Samantha Waldron's three-run homer. Senior pitcher Dana Frantz was cruising along with a shutout until the bottom of the fourth. Indiana was able to cut the lead to one run by scoring four runs on four hits. FGCU's offense provided a bit of breathing room by adding insurance runs in the fifth and the sixth before holding on for the victory. Freshman pitcher Cassidy Rash came on late to pick up the save in relief of Frantz, helping her pick up her eighth win of the season.
On day two of the tournament, the Eagles ran into Hofstra’s ace pitcher Kayleigh Lotti, who was cruising along with a 2-0 lead heading into the top of the seventh. Lotti had 12 strikeouts heading into the final frame--including three against FGCU’s leading hitter Jenks. FGCU led off the inning with a pinch-hit walk from junior Hayley O’Mara and junior left fielder Lauran Ziegler earned a bunt single to put the tying runs on base. Two straight outs were only able to move runners to second and third but did bring Jenks to the plate for a chance at redemption.
“Lotti had struck me out three times already in that game," said Jenks. “I had taken nine swings and fouled off only one ball. My spirits were a bit down but our fans did a great job getting behind me. I remember thinking 'I was a senior, a leader, and it was my time.'”
Just moments later, Jenks blasted a full-count pitch deep over the right center field fence. The 3-run homer gave the Eagles a 3-2 lead that starting pitcher Frantz would not relinquish.
“Coach Deiros went nuts, the fans went crazy, my team’s cheers and screams must have been heard for a mile,” said Jenks. "I was so excited for me and my team that I think it was the fastest home run trot of my career."
Game four provided another opportunity for new heroines to emerge as FGCU fell behind a powerful BYU squad, 3-0. In the bottom of the sixth, the Eagles cut into the lead with an unearned run and loaded the bases with two outs. Courtney Platt promptly delivered a rocket shot grand slam that easily cleared the left centerfield fence and gave the Eagles a 5-3 lead.
However, the game was not over as the Cougars trimmed the lead to one run and were threatening to score more. In came freshman reliever Alexis Casey to shut the door and get the save for FGCU.
Sunday's final game between FGCU and No. 14 UMASS would be "winner takes all" as both teams were the only undefeated teams left in the tournament. After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, the Green and Blue mounted a 14-hit attack that scored six unanswered runs to put the game away. Jenks was again solid with a 3-for-3 performance and a solo home run to right center field. Sophomore pitcher Cat McDaniel ran her record up to 12-0 with the complete game effort.
The win was FGCU's second of the season against a ranked Division I team and sewed up the tournament championship. It also ran their winning streak up to 22 straight and garnered their third consecutive tournament championship in a three-week span. Jenks and Ziegler were chosen from a team full of heroines to the All-Tournament team.
The Eagles would finish the season with a 47-9 record and with a final RPI ranking of 26th in the country. Their .351 team batting average led the country and their 7+ runs per game ranked them in the top five. Both marks obliterated the previous Atlantic Sun Conference records. Jenks would tie her own A-Sun record for RBI in a season, was the second consecutive Eagle to win Conference Player of the Year, and was the third FGCU All-American.
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
No. 4 - Winning the USF Tournament in 2009