2/7/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 184
2/7/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 179
2/8/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 135
2/8/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 57
2/9/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 65
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU softball team will begin the 2014 season this weekend as the Eagles host the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational Friday, Feb. 7 through Sunday, Feb. 8. The tournament will include Mississippi, Georgetown, Western Kentucky and Liberty University with 13 total games played at the FGCU Softball Complex.
THE TOURNAMENT FIELD
In the first game of the season, the Eagles will take on Ole Miss Friday afternoon. Mississippi finished last season with a record of 25-31 and a 3-21 mark in SEC contests. The team returns pitchers Carley Hummel and Shelby Jo Fenter and strong hitters in Madi Osias and Allison Brown, who combined for 65 RBI last season and hit .365 and .354, respectively. The Rebels are led by coach Windy Thees, who is assisted by Mike Perniciaro and Julie Meyer.
The Eagles will continue action with Georgetown of the Big East on Friday evening. The Hoyas return to the field after compiling a record of 21-33 during the 2013 season and will bring back the bats of Alexandria Anttila and Megan Hyson who each hit .250 with 50 runs knocked in last year. Hyson returns as a threat in the batter’s box and on the mound as she won eight games from the circle last season. Lauren O’Leary will also return to the pitching staff with a team-leading ERA of 4.47 from a season ago. GU will be led by coach Pat Conlan with assistance from Erica Ayers, Whit Chaiyabhat and Cathy Ricter.
On Saturday afternoon, the Eagles will take on Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers return sluggers Preslie Cruce and Amanda Thomas. Cruce knocked in 37 runs for WKU last season with an average of .323, while Thomas hit .267. The duo hit a team-high 14 home runs each. Right-handed pitchers Emily Rousseau and Janna Scheff return from the 2013 Sunbelt Conference champion team with ERAs of 1.94 and 3.27, respectively. As a team, WKU finished last season with a record of 43-18 and a 20-3 mark in conference play. The team appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season under the direction of Amy Tudor, K.C. Boldt and Aja Paculba.
The Eagles will conclude Saturday’s action with a game against Liberty University. The Lady Flames finished the 2013 season with a record of 20-37 and a mark of 8-16 in the Sunbelt Conference and begin a new era this season with first-year head coach Dot Richardson, who previously won a Gold Medal as part of the 1996 Olympic Team. The Lady Flames return Kelby Allen and Hanna Nichols to the offense. Allen maintained an average of .275 last season and hit a team-high 10 home runs, while Nichols hit .277 and knocked in 21 RBI. In the circle, Anna Jo Brittingham and Chandler Ball return for Liberty. Brittingham had a team-best ERA of 4.59 last season, while Ball led the team with nine wins and 91 strikeouts.
The tournament will conclude with three bracket-style games. The Eagles will take on the fifth-ranked team on Sunday morning prior to two games played to determine a tournament champion.
THE GREEN AND BLUE
As the Eagles prepared for the 2014 season, the team saw senior catcher Chelsea Zgrabik (Venice, Fla./Venice High School) earn Preseason Player of the Year honors for the second-consecutive season. Although she missed the end of her junior season to injury, Zgrabik concluded last season with 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 with a team-leading 15 home runs and 56 runs batted in in 45 games.
In addition to the Preseason Player of the Year, the 2014 squad features a class of six talented 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. This year’s team features greater depth and a strong group of upperclassmen leaders.
Among the returners, junior Kelsey Carpenter (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty High School) 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. Carpenter started 52 games and played all 54 games for the Eagles and will be a force in the outfield for the team this season. Jessica Barnes (Winter Haven, Fla./Haines City High School), who hit .297 last season and maintained a fielding percentage of .957 through 54 games in center field will also contribute to the Eagle offense this season
The Eagles also return their entire pitching staff from last season. Shelby Morgan (High Springs, Fla./Sante Fe High School) is pack in full swing after a season-ending injury last year. Before injury, Morgan led the squad with an ERA of 2.94 and a record of 12-6. Morgan struck out 55 batters in 107 innings. Jackie Owen (Cape Coral, Fla./North Fort Myers High School) appeared in 33 games with 18 starts to produce a 13-7 record. She struck out 71 batters in 123 innings and held an ERA of 2.95. Amanda Josie (Estero, Fla./Estero High School) rounds out the returning pitchers with an ERA of 3.34 and a record of 11-5. The trio will aid to the Eagles’ anticipated success.
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.
The FGCU/Four Points Sheraton Invitational will get underway Friday at 10 a.m. as Western Kentucky takes on Liberty. The tournament will feature five games on Friday, five games on Saturday and three games on Sunday for a total of 13 contests, all at the FGCU Softball Complex.
Tickets for the FGCU/Four Points Sheraton Invitational are available at a cost of $6 for adults and $3 for children. Tickets provide entrance to the entire day of the tournament. For more ticket information and additional deals, visit FGCUathletics.com/tickets, or call or visit the ticket office at 239-590-7145.
For further information on the FGCU/Four Points Sheraton Invitational visit the Tournament Central page on FGCUAthletics.com or by clicking here.
Friday, Feb. 7
10 a.m. Western Kentucky v. Liberty
12:15 p.m. Georgetown v. Liberty
2:30 p.m. Mississippi v. Western Kentucky
4:45 p.m. FGCU v. Mississippi
7:00 p.m. FGCU v. Georgetown
Saturday, Feb. 8
10:00 a.m. Mississippi v. Georgetown
12:15 p.m. Western Kentucky v. Georgetown
2:30 p.m. Liberty v. Mississippi
4:45 p.m. FGCU v. Western Kentucky
7:00 p.m. FGCU v. Liberty
Sunday, Feb. 9
9:00 a.m. FGCU v. 5th place
11:15 a.m. 3rd place v. 4th place
1:30 p.m. 2nd place v. 1st place