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. 3 - "Comeback doubleheader sweep against North Georgia in 2007” (Mar. 14, 2007)
FGCU entered the doubleheader against North Georgia with a 34-3 record and a No. 21 ranking in Division II. Junior pitcher Rachael Edinger pitched a four-hit gem with the only blemish being a solo home run in the top of the third to give the Saints a 1-0 lead. The lead seemed like it would hold up as the Eagle’ offense could only muster four hits and no runs through six innings. With one more chance in the bottom of the seventh inning, junior pinch hitter Hillary Johnson gave FGCU some hope with a leadoff infield single to the right side. Junior Lauren Barraco pinch ran for Johnson and was advanced to second base on junior second baseman Alisha Boyd’s sacrifice bunt. One batter later with two outs, sophomore Cheyenne Jenks came to the plate as the Green and Blue’s last chance. She promptly deposited the second pitch she saw high over the scoreboard in left field for a dramatic walk-off two run homer. Jenks’ home run not only won game one of the doubleheader, it would drastically affect the decisions made in game two.
Sophomore pitcher Dana Frantz would get the start in game two and put up three scoreless innings to start the game. However, North Georgia would strike first in the top of the fourth scoring three runs on five hits and one error. The Eagles cut into the lead in the bottom of the inning when senior first baseman Natasha Johnson roped an RBI single down the left field line to bring home freshman right fielder Jessica Gary, who had walked and stolen second base to lead off the inning. FGCU would tie the game an inning later when Hillary Johnson’s two-run double to right center scored junior third baseman Carmen Paez and sophomore catcher Desiree Miller.
With the score now tied, FGCU again had an opportunity for late game heroics in the bottom of the sixth. Boyd led off the frame with an infield single to the right side and was advanced to second by senior centerfielder Rachel Homan’s sacrifice bunt. With one out, North Georgia decided to intentionally walk Jenks.
“It’s not often that you would want to pitch around someone to face the other team’s leading hitter and eventual Division II record holder for home runs (Paez),” said head coach David Deiros. “However, I honestly believe that Cheyenne’s game winning homer in the pressure cooker of game one directly impacted their strategy in this situation.”
North Georgia did not want to face Paez either and made the highly irregular move of also intentionally walking her to load the bases. With one out, the responsibility fell on senior left fielder Jessica Rouse, FGCU’s single season and career record holder in homers at the time. Rouse quickly responded by cranking the first pitch that she saw over the left centerfield fence. Rouse’s grand slam made it 7-3 and Frantz was able to retire the side to deliver the second half of the exciting doubleheader sweep.
“I remember talking to my assistant (pitching coach Tom Thompson) after the game about that sixth inning and he really put that situation into perspective. He said ‘I feel the same way when we have intra-squad scrimmages--who do want to pitch to in critical situations?—Homan? She can hit the long ball. Ok, how about Jenks—don’t want to pitch to her? Come on down, Ms. Paez, and so on.’ It validated that we were on the right track on how we were going to try to win games and illuminated how we wanted to recruit.”
“North Georgia was a good team and in this moment they chose to walk two of our strongest hitters to load the bases and pitch to me,” said Jessica Rouse. “It’s any hitter’s dream to prove that they made a huge mistake in that situation. This day I was able to do that and help my team finish on top. This is by far the most memorable at-bat I had as a student-athlete.”
The Green and Blue would go on to lead the nation in wins in 2007 with 62 (a program record) including a streak of 26 consecutive victories and a 32-2 record at home. They would go on to hit a school record of 87 home runs on the season (second best in the country that year). Paez would go on to lead the nation with 28 home runs on the season, followed by Homan’s 19, and Rouse’s 15. The Eagles set a school record by scoring just under 6 runs per game—a record that they would break each of the next two seasons. 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
No. 3 - Comeback doubleheader sweep against North Georgia in 2007