5/7/2014 | Nashville, Tenn. | Attendance: 158
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Despite a fourth-inning home run from senior Brittney Garabedian, the no. 6 FGCU softball team fell to no. 3 Stetson 4-1 Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Championship. With the loss, the Eagles fall to 31-25-1 on the season and will face the loser of the no. 4 Mercer/no. 5 Kennesaw State game Thursday at 3 p.m. CST. The Hatters improve to 35-12 and will face Lipscomb in the second round.
The game saw four scoreless innings before Garabedian (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep)ended the drought for both teams with a solo home run over the center-field fence. The Hatters responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth and held FGCU scoreless for the remainder of the game to seal the victory.
The Eagles produced just three hits, while allowing Stetson to record 11. Stetson starting pitcher Meredith Owen struck out six FGCU batters and walked none en route to her 23rd win of the season.
“You have to give Stetson a lot of credit,” said head coach David Deiros. “They put runners on base and they were able to squeeze in some hits just out of reach of our defenders. We had one bad inning on defense and we didn’t do enough on offense to stretch the lead when we had it. That was the difference in the ballgame.”
Senior Chelsea Zgrabik (Venice, Fla./Venice High School) singled to left field in the first inning but the Eagles were unable to produce another hit through the first four innings of play.
FGCU pitcher Shelby Morgan (High Springs, Fla./Santa Fe High School) held the Hatters hitless through the first two innings but was briefly challenged in the third when the Hatters used three hits to load the bases with just one out. Stetson’s Courtney Brandt initially rounded third on the final hit of the inning, but a strong throw from Jessica Barnes (Winter Haven, Fla./Haines City High School) in center field stopped the runner from advancing.
The Eagles again stopped Stetson from scoring as Regan Knapik (Land O’Lakes, Fla./Wiregrass High School) scooped up a grounder and threw out the runner at home. With the bases still loaded, rookie Jeanie Verderese (Jacksonville, Fla./Creekside High School) recorded the team’s third out with a ground out to second base to end the inning.
Both teams went down in order in the fourth to hold the game scoreless.
After Garabedian's homer in the top half of the fifth, Stetson’s leadoff batter Amanda Grimaldo doubled to center field and scored on the next batter as Brandt knocked a double down the right-field line to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth.
The Hatters continued with two consecutive singles and another double down the right-field line to score two more runs and take a 3-1 lead with two runners still on and just one out. Stetson’s Demi Meza knocked in both runs on her only hit of the day. The Eagles intentionally walked Stetson’s clean-up hitter, Owen, to load the bases and allowed a fourth run to score on a two-out single up the middle. The Hatters sent Chrissy Morello around third, but the runner was called out at the plate for the inning’s third out on a strong throw from center by Barnes.
The Eagles stopped Stetson from further extending the lead but were unable to produce hits in the sixth and were again held scoreless in the seventh.
Morgan was tabbed with the loss after allowing four earned runs on 11 hits through six innings of work. She moves to 12-8 on the season.
With a win in Thursday’s game, the Eagles would play Friday at 3 p.m. CST.