5/8/2014 | Nashville, Tenn. | Attendance: 149
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Backed by five runs on five hits in the first two innings of the game, the FGCU softball team earned a 5-3 win over no. 5 Kennesaw State Thursday afternoon in the Atlantic Sun Championship. The no. 6 seeded Eagles improve to 32-25-1 on the season and stay alive in the double-elimination tournament, which is hosted by Lipscomb University at Draper Diamond. The Owls finish their season with a record of 24-29.
With the victory, the Eagles will face the winner of the elimination match between no. 1 USC Upstate and no. 2 Lipscomb on Friday at 1:30 EST (12:30 CST local). The top-seeded teams were both upset in their first games of the tournament on Thursday. Upstate fell at the hands of no. 4 Mercer University, 4-3, while Lipscomb dropped its first game 2-0 to no. 3 Stetson.
Senior Amanda Josie (Estero, Fla./Estero High School) earned the win in the circle for FGCU with just one earned run allowed in 5.1 innings. Josie allowed five hits and held the Owls to three total runs. Relief pitcher Shelby Morgan (High Springs, Fla./Santa Fe High School) earned her fourth save of the season with 1.2 effective innings of work. Morgan allowed just two hits and held the Owls scoreless to end the game.
Offensively, sophomore Louie Ross (Cape Coral, Fla./Ida S. Baker High School) led the Eagles with three hits in three at bats and added one RBI, one run scored and a walk. Junior Kelsey Carpenter (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty High School) started the Eagle offense with a solo home run in the top of the first and added two walks in the game.
“We had a lot of strong performances today,” said head coach David Deiros. “I thought Louie Ross had a great day, I thought Kirsten [Bembnowski] got us started really nicely with the opposite-field double in that inning and I thought Amanda Josie threw a great game. We were able to execute some things in the second inning and that was the difference in the game. Against good teams like Kennesaw State, you can’t give them opportunities and you have to be able to extend leads. We did a good job for most of the day with that.”
After two quick outs to start the game, Carpenter put the Eagles on the board with a long shot to left field for her 10th homer of the campaign.
KSU produced its first base runner of the game with a single through the right side from Natalie Rhodes in the bottom of the first, but Josie got two outs to end the threat.
The Eagles carried the momentum into the second inning and saw a leadoff double to the gap in right center from Kirsten Bembnowski (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake High School). Ross drove in Bembnowski in the next at bat with a single down the left-field line before a single from rookie Jeanie Verderese (Jacksonville, Fla./Creekside High School) moved Ross to second and put runners on first and second with no outs.
Regan Knapik (Land O’Lakes, Fla./Wiregrass High School) reached first after laying down a sacrifice bunt and was called safe on an infield error. Knapik’s at bat successfully scored Ross from third to put FGCU up 3-0. The Eagles extended the lead with a sacrifice fly to right field by Jessica Barnes (Winter Haven, Fla./Haines City High School) that allowed Verderese to score from third but enabled the Owls to turn a double play and throw Knapik out at first. The next batter, Makensie McAvoy (Plant City, Fla./Plant City High School) reached on an infield error to keep the Eagles alive.
After a Kennesaw pitching change, Zgrabik singled to the left side to drive in Amanda Byers (North Miami Beach, Fla./Michael Krop High School), who had pinch ran for McAvoy, and put the Green and Blue up 5-0.
The Eagles put runners on base in the third, fourth and fifth but were unable to add to their run total. Although the offense struggled after the second inning, Josie held the Owls to just three hits in the first five innings to maintain a 5-0 lead for the Green and Blue through five complete innings.
The Owls produced a one-out triple from Rhodes in the bottom of the sixth and put their first run on the scoreboard with an infield single from Taylor Denton. Kennesaw State added a run when an infield error allowed Angie Dascoli to reach second base and score the runner from second.
The next Owl batter slapped a single to the circle and knocked in a third run for Kennesaw to cut the Eagle lead to 5-3 with one out. FGCU stopped the Owl offense with a foul out and a ground out to end inning and bring the game to the seventh.
The Eagles produced another base runner in the top of the seventh as Ross reached base for the fourth time on a four-pitch walk, but the Green and Blue were again unable to cross the plate and entered the bottom of the seventh with a 5-3 lead.
Morgan entered the game with two outs in the sixth and went on to allow just one hit in the seventh on a one-out single to left center. The junior escaped without trouble with two ground outs to end the inning and the game in favor of FGCU.
The Eagles will look for a win in Friday afternoon’s contest in order to extend their season. With a victory, the team will play immediately following the first game and will face the loser of the Stetson/Mercer matchup in the consolation bracket final. The winner of the 3 p.m. CST game will move on to Saturday’s championship final. The final is currently scheduled for noon CST.