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. 2 - "Winning the Hawaii Tournament in 2009” (Mar. 5-8, 2009)
FGCU entered the Malihini tournament at the University of Hawaii winners of 11 consecutive games with an overall record of 19-4. The Eagles would face Oregon State, No. 25 Mississippi State, Hawaii, Mt. St. Mary’s, Radford and Santa Clara.
“This was a once in a lifetime trip for most of us--Diamondhead, Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor,” said head coach David Deiros. “However, we knew we had some work to do facing an SEC team, a Pac 10 team and a postseason-tested team like Hawaii.”
The Green and Blue finished day one of the event with a pair of milestone wins. In game one against Oregon State, sophomore Cat McDaniel did a marvelous job of keeping the Beavers off the scoreboard for the first five innings. In the top of the sixth, senior shortstop Jessica Paez doubled with one out and senior third baseman Cheyenne Jenks followed with a walk, putting runners on first and second. After senior designated hitter Samantha Waldron grounded into a fielder’s choice, senior first baseman Jessica Carter drove a double into the left center field gap, scoring both Paez and Waldron, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead. The Beavers would come back with a run in the bottom half of the inning and had runners on first and third with one out. The next hitter lifted a high fly ball to deep right field where sophomore right fielder Courtney Platt made the catch and then saved the day, she threw out the runner who was trying to tag up and advance to second before the runner from third could tag up and score. McDaniel would retire the side in the bottom of the 7th to preserve the 2-1 victory.
“Carter's double gave us the two big runs but we don't win that ball game without Platty's heads-up defense play to keep the tying run from scoring,” added Deiros.
“This was a big win for us as it turned out to be an awesome milestone for program as it was the 300th win. This game, I believe, helped set the table for what was to come over the course of the five other games in that tournament," said Jessica Carter.
Against Mississippi State in game two of the day, Paez connected for a two-run homer in the top of the first, giving FGCU an early 2-0 lead. The Bulldogs took the lead back after scoring a run in the bottom of the first and two more in the second against senior pitcher Dana Frantz. However, the Green and Blue stormed back with four runs in the top of the fourth highlighted by senior catcher Desiree Miller's three-run homer to deep left field. Jenks would add some insurance in the fifth with a two-run homer to center field, her 10th of the season. Frantz made the lead hold up keeping the Bulldogs off the scoreboard the rest of the way. The 8-3 win over No. 25 Mississippi State was the Eagles second win of the season over a nationally ranked opponent.
The following evening against the host team Hawaii, Carter was again the hitting star. She hit a two-run single up the middle to score Jenks and Waldron to give the Eagles an early 2-0 lead. She then answered a Hawaii run in the bottom of the 3rd by leading off the next half inning with a solo homer to left. After back-to-back doubles by Platt and Miller coupled by miscues by the Rainbow Wahine defense gave FGCU a seemingly comfortable 5-2 lead going into the 7th. A Hawaii two-run homer made it interesting but McDaniel was able to go the distance and shut the door for a 5-4 win.
The next day brought two totally different contests. The first game was a nail-biter as FGCU was behind 4-3 and down to their last strike against Mt. St. Mary's. However, that would change in three swings of the bat. Jenks hit the full-count pitch over the center field fence for her second homer of the game and most importantly, tied things up. Waldron immediately followed with a hard single down the right field line that was misplayed by the right fielder so she could get to second base. Carter then hit a walk-off single to left field allowing Waldron to score easily from second for the 5-4 win.
Still undefeated in the tournament, the Eagles would face Radford later that afternoon. The hot-hitting Eagles showed no ill effects from their stressful first game as they pounded out 17 hits, seven of them extra base hits, to hand the Highlanders a 16-6 defeat. Paez would deliver a two-run double in the third inning and two-run triple in the fifth. Playing in front of her future coach for the Chicago Bandits of the pro league for softball (Radford's Head Coach Mickey Dean), Jenks was 4-for-4 for the game with two doubles, a towering home run to center field, and five RBI.
With a victory the next day in the final game of the event versus Santa Clara, FGCU would win their second consecutive tournament and 17th straight game. Jenks' grand slam to left field in the 1st inning gave the Green and Blue a lead they would never relinquish. Just for good measure, Waldron went back-to-back with her sixth homer of the season. Miller's base clearing double to right center field in the fourth inning sealed the 11-1 victory by mercy rule.
For their efforts over the four-day tournament, Jessica Carter, Desiree Miller and Cheyenne Jenks were named to the All-Tournament team. Jenks, who finished the tournament with five homers and 14 RBI in six games, was selected as the Most Outstanding Player.
“I can't say that I had a favorite game in particular during that tournament,” said Courtney Platt. “The most important feeling to me was rising above the "underdog" status and coming together to play to our fullest potential. That team truly felt like my family and I will never forget that.”
“I could talk about Hawaii for days as it was an amazing time and definitely there was something personally special for me in just about every game,” said Jessica Carter. “Oregon State just topped them all just because we came out victorious starting with that game.”
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
No. 3 - Comeback doubleheader sweep against North Georgia in 2007
No. 2 - Winning the Hawaii Tournament in 2009