2/9/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 65
2/9/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 122
FORT MYERS, Fla. – With a walk-off win and a tie due to time constraints, the FGCU softball team remained undefeated through the third day of the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational. The Eagles defeated Liberty 8-7 Sunday morning at the FGCU Softball Complex and held Western Kentucky to a 1-1 tie before time restrictions called the game after six innings.
The Eagles begin the 2014 slate with a record of 5-0-1 to mark the team’s best start in program history.
Senior catcher Chelsea Zgrabik (Venice, Fla./Venice High School) led the Eagle offense with four runs batted in and four hits on the day. Zgrabik knocked in three runs in the morning tilt and was responsible for the Green and Blue’s only run of the matinee. Kirsten Bembnowski (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake High School) added three RBI on three hits for the Eagles in the win over Liberty, while Kelsey Carpenter (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty High School) sparked the offense with five hits in eight at bats, including four hits in four opportunities in the comeback.
The Eagles took on fifth-ranked Liberty University in a 9 a.m. consolation match to begin the final day of competition at the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational. With two outs in the top of the first inning, the Flames homered to left field to take a 1-0 lead.
Carpenter responded quickly for the home team with a two-out single up the middle. Carpenter crossed the plate to tie the game at one run each when Zgrabik followed with a double to right center.
Louie Ross (Cape Coral, Fla./Ida S. Baker High School) doubled to center field to begin the bottom of the second inning and scored when Bembnowski produced a single to right center. The Bembnowski single put the Eagles ahead 2-1 after two innings.
The Flames took advantage of several Eagle miscues in the top of the third. FGCU hit the leadoff batter before walking four others. The Green and Blue infield recorded two errors and allowed a runner to reach base on a fielder’s choice, in turn giving Liberty six runs on no hits in the top of the third. The Flames held a 7-2 lead but scored just three earned runs in the first three innings.
The Eagles battled back quickly as Carpenter singled through the left side in the bottom of the third. Zgrabik knocked her first home run of the season over the right-center fence to bring the score to 7-4 after three complete innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Carpenter again sparked the Eagle offense. Carpenter singled up the middle before Hannah Horwath (Lake Mary, Fla./Lake Mary High School) entered as a pinch hitter. Horwarth singled to the shortstop and advanced Carpenter to third with two outs. With Ross at the plate, Horwath took off for second. Carpenter followed to steal home and cut the Eagles’ deficit to 7-5 after five innings.
Freshman pitcher Taylor Wade (Pace, Fla./Pace High School) continued to hold the Flames scoreless through the fourth, fifth and sixth inning by allowing just two hits through the three innings. Wade now sits at 2-0 on the season with an ERA of 0.54.
Bembnowski added to her RBI total in the sixth with a leadoff homerun to left field bringing the score to 7-6.
The Eagles again allowed no hits in the top of the seventh and entered the bottom of the seventh needing one run to stay alive.
Carpenter again singled to right field to spark the Eagles. Zgrabik followed with a single through the left side to put Carpenter in scoring position with just one out. After a strikeout, Ross singled up the middle to score Carpenter and tie the game at seven runs.
Bembnowski grabbed her third hit of the game with a single up the middle, scoring the runner from second base and giving the Eagles their first walk-off win of the season.
Wade earned the win over Liberty with five complete innings pitched. She relieved Jackie Own (Cape Coral, Fla./North Fort Myers High School) in the fifth inning and went on to allow just two hits and no earned runs.
After a break, the Eagles returned to the field for the tournament championship matchup against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers previously defeated Liberty, Ole Miss and Georgetown before falling to FGCU on Saturday evening.
Jessica Barnes (Winter Haven, Fla./Haines City High School) opened the afternoon game with a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Zgrabik singled to right field and enabled Barnes to score from second to give the Eagles an early 1-0 lead.
The teams remained scoreless through the next five innings, with neither team producing more than one hit each inning. After five and a half innings, the Eagles maintained a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Western Kentucky put runners in scoring position on an infield error, a single to right field and a sacrifice bunt. Another single scored the runner to tie the game at one run with one out. After a fielder’s choice, the Hilltoppers held runners on second and third with two outs. The Eagles intentionally walked WKU’s eighth batter to load the bases with two outs but stopped the WKU pressure as Amanda Josie (Estero, Fla./Estero High School) struck out the batter to end the inning.
With travel arrangements set, the Eagles and Hilltoppers were forced to stop play at 4 p.m. The teams concluded the game at a 1-1 tie after six complete innings.
Josie pitched all six innings in the no decision. She struck out a career-high six batters, while allowing just five hits and one run. The only WKU player to cross the plate was an unearned run, preserving Josie’s ERA at 1.17 on the year.
The Eagles will travel to Miami, Fla. next weekend for the FIU Invitational Friday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, Feb. 16. FGCU will face Wisconsin, FIU and Georgia Southern in five games over three days. The team will return to the FGCU Softball Complex the following weekend for the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Round Robin invitational. The next FGCU-hosted tournament will feature North Dakota, Villanova, Arkansas, Harvard and Eastern Michigan.