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No. 6 @FGCU_Softball Upsets No. 1 USC Upstate But Falls at Hands of No. 4 Mercer
|Win: MORGAN (13-8)||5.2||6||5||4||1||1|
|Loss: MILLER (18-5)||3.1||4||2||2||2||7|
|Win: RICE (10-4)||4.2||2||0||0||0||2|
|Loss: MORGAN (13-9)||3.2||5||1||0||1||0|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Despite an upset of top-seeded and nationally ranked USC Upstate to start the day, the FGCU softball team’s season came to a close with a loss to Mercer at the 2014 Atlantic Sun Championship on Friday evening. The Eagles defeated USC Upstate 8-7 in the first game of the day to advance to the consolation bracket final but ultimately dropped an 11-inning battle with Mercer 2-1. The no. 6 seeded Eagles finish the season with a record of 33-26-1 after a strong tournament run.
Senior Kirsten Bembnowski (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake High School) led the Eagles with four hits in seven at bats on the final day of competition. The third baseman knocked in four runs for the Green and Blue including a seventh-inning homerun that proved to be the game winner in the Upstate game.
Kelsey Carpenter (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty High School) added three hits for the Eagles and crossed the plate three times against Upstate to help the team to the defining victory.
Junior pitcher Shelby Morgan (High Springs, Fla./Santa Fe High School) earned the decision in both games after entering in relief. She pitched 5.2 innings against USC Upstate with four earned runs allowed on six hits. She struck out one and walked one en route to her 13th win of the season. Morgan pitched 3.2 innings against Mercer after the Eagles saw 6.1 effective innings from senior Amanda Josie (Estero, Fla./Estero High School). Morgan was tabbed with the loss with one unearned run allowed in the 11th inning. She gave up five hits and walked just one in her second appearance of the day. Josie gave up just one run on seven hits in the start. She struck out two and walked only one of the 26 batters she faced.
“Hats off to our players,” said head coach David Deiros of the day as a whole. “That’s 18 innings of nail-biting, hard work and they worked extremely hard today. I’m proud of the way they played today and the way they represented themselves as a sixth seed. ”
GAME ONE | No. 1 USC UPSTATE
With two outs in the top of the first, Carpenter got things started for the Eagles with a single to left center. Senior Chelsea Zgrabik (Venice, Fla./Venice High School) walked before sophomore Louie Ross (Cape Coral, Fla./Ida S. Baker High School) was hit by a pitch to load the bases for the Green and Blue. Bembnowski singled up the middle to drive home Carpenter and Zgrabik to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead over the nation’s no. 21 team in the top of the first inning.
The Spartans quickly responded with three-consecutive singles in the bottom of the first but were held to just one run.
Rookie Jeanie Verderese (Jacksonville, Fla./Creekside High School) kept the Eagle momentum with a leadoff double to start the second. Verderese advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and crossed the plate with a sacrifice fly by senior Jessica Barnes (Winter Haven, Fla./Haines City High School).
The Spartans again responded in the bottom of the inning and loaded the bases on three walks. With runners on all bases and just one out, Morgan entered in relief of starting pitcher Jackie Owen (Cape Coral, Fla./North Fort Myers High School). Morgan forced a grounder to the infield but an infield error pulled the tag off second base and allowed Upstate’s Dana Landers to score and keep the bases loaded. The junior righty forced a grounder to third and a strikeout to end the inning before the Spartans could do any further damage. After two innings, the Eagles held a 3-2 lead over the league favorite.
Upstate brought in its first relief pitcher in the top of the third and immediately put Carpenter on first base with a five-pitch walk. After two quick outs Bembnowski rocked a double to center field that scored Carpenter from first base to increase the Eagle lead. As the next batter, Brittney Garabedian (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep High School) singled through the right side to score Bembnowski and bring the FGCU advantage to 5-3.
The Eagles held Upstate scoreless in the third and entered the fourth inning with their bats still hot. Makensie McAvoy (Plant City, Fla./Plant City High School) produced a two-out single to left field that forced Upstate to make its second pitching change of the day. The third pitcher making an appearance was a season high for the Spartans.
McAvoy continued to second base with a Carpenter walk before both runners advanced on a walk from Zgrabik. With the bases loaded, Ross singled up the middle to drive in McAvoy and Carpenter and give the bottom-seeded Eagles a 7-2 lead over USC Upstate in the fourth inning.
Morgan sent the Spartans down in order in the fourth to bring the Eagles back to the plate quickly. Garabedian led off with a bloop single to short-right field but FGCU was unable to bring the runner home. The fifth inning marked the first in which the Eagles did not produce a run.
Upstate took advantage of the Eagles’ fifth-inning drought and sparked an offensive surge in the bottom of the fifth. The Spartans saw a leadoff single from Kendall Settlemyre and allowed a single from Cheyenne Griffin to follow. A sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position before a groundout sent Settlemyre home successfully. A fielding error by the Eagles made way for a second run to score in the inning, bringing the score to 7-4 after five innings.
The Spartans carried the spark into the sixth inning and put runners on second and third as a result of a walk, a single and a wild pitch. Another single from Settlemyre scored Aly Schneider before a groundout allowed A-Sun Player of the Year Shellie Robinson to cross the plate and tie the game at seven runs each.
With the score knotted at seven, Bembnowski led off the final inning. The senior third baseman quickly went down in the count on two missed swings but knocked a solo shot beyond the left field fence to reclaim the lead for FGCU at 8-7. The homer was Bembnowski’s fourth of the season and resulted in her fourth RBI of the game.
Morgan and the Eagles allowed one single in the bottom of the seventh but ended Upstate’s tournament run with two final ground outs in the bottom of the seventh.
The Eagles produced 10 hits in the high-scoring affair and allowed the Spartans to record nine on the day. Morgan earned the win, while Owen pitched 1.1 innings with two earned runs on three hits and three walks.
With the win, the Eagles advanced to the consolation bracket final where they face fourth-ranked Mercer University. The upset marked just the third time in Atlantic Sun history that a no. 6 seed defeated the no. 1 ranked team.
GAME TWO | No. 4 MERCER
Carpenter again started the Eagles with a first-inning single to right field but the Eagles were unable to score to begin the evening contest.
Mercer produced three hits in the first three innings but retired nine FGCU batters in order between the first and fourth innings to hold the game scoreless through three innings.
With two outs in the fourth, Zgrabik took hold of the game with a solo home run to straightaway center field. The senior catcher’s 14th homer of the season gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead midway through the contest.
The Eagles maintained the slight advantage through five complete innings as Josie allowed no Mercer player to move into scoring position.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Bears produced their first real threat of the game. Kaytlin Haney singled up the middle to leadoff and advanced to third on consecutive ground outs. Haney crossed the plate to tie the game when Natalie Shiver singled through the right side. The Eagles ended the inning before the Bears could take the lead but the game stood tied 1-1.
FGCU was unable to produce an attack in the seventh and held the Bears scoreless through the end of the seventh inning to push the defensive battle to extra innings.
Both teams were held scoreless in the eighth but the Bears again attacked in the ninth. A single by Riley Carter gave Mercer an initial base runner before Kaylynn Sloat doubled to right center. Carter rounded third on the play but was tagged out at the plate on a stellar throw from Barnes in center field. Barnes’ throw met Verderese at second who powered a throw home for Zgrabik to make the tag and save the game. With Sloat still on second, Verderese ended the inning and again saved the game for FGCU with a mid-air diving catch to stop a line drive from reaching the outfield.
The Eagles and Bears both added a single hit in the 10th but the teams still faced a 1-1 tie after 10 complete innings.
After a Mercer pitching change, McAvoy led off the 11th by reaching on an infield error. McAvoy advanced to second on a single from Carpenter but Carpenter was called out on a double play in the next at bat. Despite the double play, McAvoy took third on the play to give the Eagles a runner in scoring position with two outs. The Bears used a three-pitch strikeout to stop the Eagle attack and take hold of the game’s momentum.
Mercer reached on a dropped fly ball in shallow left field to begin the bottom of the 11th and advanced a runner to third on a double down the left-field line by Shiver. With two runners on and no outs, Carter smacked the second pitch up the middle, allowing pinch runner Anna Cizek to score from third and handing the Bears the 2-1 extra-inning win.
Mercer produced 12 hits in the 11-inning battle, while holding FGCU to just six hits. The no. 4 Bears will face no. 3 Stetson in Saturday’s Atlantic Sun Conference Championship final at noon CST. Stetson remains undefeated in the tournament and will need a single win to earn the A-Sun’s automatic big to the NCAA Tournament. As the winner of the consolation bracket, Mercer will need to defeat Stetson twice to earn the championship, which will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
The Eagles finish the season with a record of 33-26-1 for their 11th 30-win season in 12 years. The team ends the year ranked among the top-100 in the RPI and returns its top hitter in Carpenter and number one pitcher in Morgan for the 2015 season. The Eagles will lose eight seniors to graduation this spring. The group produced an overall record of 138-93-1 in four years including an Atlantic Sun Championship and FGCU’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win.