FORT MYERS, Fla. – With just one month remaining until the first pitch, FGCU softball head coach David Deiros unveiled the Eagles’ 2014 schedule this week.
The team’s competitive 2014 schedule features teams from a list of strong conferences that include the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big East and American Athletic conferences. The slate also includes eight teams from last year’s NCAA Tournament – Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Southern, Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Hofstra and USC Upstate - with one Super Regional team in FSU.
The Eagles’ season will include 29 different opponents with 14 ranked among the NCAA’s top 100 teams. Eight of those teams, including Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky, USC Upstate and Lipscomb rank in the top 50, while FSU, Hofstra and Wisconsin are top-25 teams.
The Green and Blue will play 37 games in the friendly confines of the FGCU Softball Complex and will begin the season with four spring tournaments, including three events hosted in Fort Myers.
“We are very pleased with the strength of our nonconference schedule,” said Deiros of the slate. “We feel it will be a great complement to the inherent rigor of Atlantic Sun Conference competition. I am especially excited about the quantity and quality of our home games. I think our fans will really appreciate the high caliber of softball they will see at our stadium this season.”
The Eagles will open the year with Mississippi on Friday, Feb. 7 as part of the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational. The tournament will also welcome Georgetown, Western Kentucky and Liberty to Fort Myers for the three-day event.
The following weekend the Eagles will travel to Miami for the FIU Tournament which will include contests against Wisconsin, FIU and Georgia Southern on Friday, Feb. 14 and Saturday, Feb. 15.
FGCU and Four Points by Sheraton will partner again the weekend of Feb. 21-23 as the Eagles host a Round Robin tournament that will feature Villanova, North Dakota, Arkansas, Harvard and Eastern Michigan. The three-day event will feature a total of 15 games.
The Eagles will host Oakland and Eastern Michigan in a mid-week double header on Wed., Feb. 26 before hosting their final tournament of the season.
As a final test before Atlantic Sun Conference action begins, FGCU will welcome LIU Brooklyn, Hofstra and Michigan State Feb. 28-March 2 for the Four Points by Sheraton Spring Break Tournament. The tournament will also feature neutral games with Eastern Michigan and Bethune-Cookman.
The highly-anticipated Atlantic Sun season will begin the second weekend of March. The conference concluded the 2013 season with the eighth-ranked conference RPI and with seven of 10 teams among the top 100.
The Eagles will begin conference play in Nashville, Tenn. as they travel for a three-game series with RPI ranked 49 Lipscomb on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9. The team will then return to Fort Myers for a doubleheader with Virginia Tech and perennial power Florida State on Wednesday, March 12.
Conference play will resume on Saturday, March 15 as the Eagles welcome East Tennessee State University to campus for a three-game series before FGCU faces Connecticut in a double-header on Tuesday, March 18.
The Eagles will travel in back-to-back weekends to face USC Upstate and Stetson for three games to conclude the month of March. The Spartans of USC Upstate earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament last season and finished the year ranked 43 among the NCAA’s 291 teams.
In a rematch of a preseason tournament game, FGCU will host FIU for a double header on Wednesday, April 2. The Eagles will then take on Kennesaw State at home before concluding nonconference action with a home doubleheader against FAU on Wednesday, April 9.
The Eagles will travel to Jacksonville April 12-13 for a three-game series and will host North Florida Friday, April 18 and Saturday, April 19 as A-Sun action heats up. UNF concluded the season ranked 52 in the NCAA’s RPI, just three spots ahead of 55th ranked FGCU.
In its final home series of the season, FGCU will host Mercer on Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27. A senior day ceremony honoring the team’s eight seniors will precede Sunday’s noon game.
The Eagles will conclude the regular season in Highland Heights, Ky. when they challenge Northern Kentucky May 3-4.
The 2014 Atlantic Sun Championship Tournament, hosted by Lipscomb University, is slated for Wednesday, May 7 to Saturday, May 10 in Nashville, Tenn.
“We have a senior-laden squad with most of our starters from last season returning to action this year,” added Deiros. “Our coaching staff is very optimistic about how our team will compete against this strong schedule.”
The 2014 squad features a class of six newcomers and welcomes back 14 players from a team that finished third in the Atlantic Sun with a 16-7 record, and held a 36-18 overall record. Among the returners, junior Kelsey Carpenter (Oviedo, Fla/ Hagerty HS) received NFCA All-South Region first team, All-Atlantic Sun Second Team, Academic All-Conference team and College Sports Madness A-Sun All-Conference First Team honors after leading the team with a batting average of .380. Carpenter knocked in 35 runs with 60 hits including a team-high 10 doubles and five triples. Senior Chelsea Zgrabik (Venice, Fla./Venice HS) received recognition as an NFCA All-South Region First Team member and was named Atlantic Sun Co-Player of the Year, while also picking up an A-Sun All-Conference Second Team selection. Zgrabik batted .329 as a junior with a team-leading 15 home runs and 56 runs batted in.
As a team, the Eagles will return 76 percent of last year’s 395 hits, including 111 extra-base hits. The Green and Blue welcomes back hitters who recorded 84 percent of the team’s 270 RBI and 72 percent of 294 runs scored. The team also maintains all three pitchers who combined for an ERA of 3.10 and collectively struck out 157 batters.