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Softball Goes Undefeated in FGCU Invitational, Falls to No. 4 Washington Before Road Trip

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

After a disappointing start to the season the weekend prior, the FGCU softball team hosted another tournament, the FGCU Invitational, on Feb. 16 and 17. In a completely different performance, the Eagles went 4-0 in the invitational tournament, capping it off with a walk-off win in their final game against Middle Tennessee. Then on Feb. 20, the Eagles lost to No. 4 Washington 6-2 as their record now sits at 5-6.

Coming into the invitational tournament, FGCU was 1-5 so far this season. Their only win came against Georgetown 10-2. With two games on Feb. 16, the first team up for the Eagles to face was Delaware. The Blue Hens had a 3-3 record after defeating Middle Tennessee earlier that day.

Getting through the first few innings with not much action going on, the bottom of the fifth inning was when the first scoring opportunity presented itself for FGCU. The Eagles took advantage of this opening. Junior utility player McKenzie Wittenberg came in to pinch hit and reached base on a single to left field.

After a player was hit by a pitch and then a walk, the Eagles had the bases loaded. Junior shortstop Kayleigh Roper came in to pinch hit and with a sacrifice fly to right field, FGCU got on the board with a run. Then, junior outfielder Avery Viancos earned an RBI single to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead.

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That was all the Eagles needed as they earned a 2-0 win in game one. Next up was an evening game against Akron. The Zips defeated Middle Tennessee earlier in the day as they began their season 1-0.

In this matchup, not much happened. The two teams combined for just five hits but FGCU once again took advantage of their opportunities to put runs on the board. The Eagles were on the board early in this game as redshirt junior infielder Meagan Ricks hit a home run to right center field in the bottom of the second inning to take a 1-0 lead.

Later, in the bottom of the fourth inning, FGCU scored again. This time, Ricks earned a single but with an error by Akron, graduate student right-handed pitcher and outfielder Riley Oakes was able to score on the play as the Eagles took a 2-0 lead. By the end of the game, the Eagles earned another 2-0 victory.

Once again, the Eagles played the Zips, this time to start play on Feb. 17. After losing to FGCU the night before, Akron fell to Delaware that morning in extra innings. This game started off a bit more shaky for FGCU as Akron loaded the bases in the top of the first inning. Senior right-handed pitcher Claire Maulding got out of the inning with no runs allowed.

In the bottom of the first inning, Oakes had a sacrifice fly that brought home Viancos to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead at the end of the inning. After senior left-handed pitcher and first baseman Caridad Estes singled to start the bottom of the second inning, freshman outfielder Camryn Feast came in the game as a pinch runner for Estes. That decision paid off for the Eagles as Feast scored later in the inning on an RBI single by sophomore outfielder Olivia Black as the Eagles took a 2-0 lead.

FGCU would double their lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. In the inning, Estes had a sacrifice bunt that scored Ricks. Then, Wittenberg came in to pinch hit for freshman infielder Sophie Wylie. Wittenberg had an RBI single that brought home graduate student and catcher Neely Peterson as the Eagles took a 4-0 lead.

At the end of the top of the seventh inning, Akron got on the board with a run to end a potential shutout with a sacrifice bunt. But the Zips couldn’t keep their attempt at a rally going as the Eagles won 4-1.

Wrapping up the FGCU Invitational that night due to heavy rain canceling all games scheduled for Feb. 18, FGCU played against Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders came into this game with an 0-8 record.

Once again, the Eagles were on the board first and early on in the game. In the bottom of the first inning, Oakes had an RBI single that scored Viancos. Then, in the bottom of the second inning, a home run by graduate student shortstop and third baseman Maria Angelino to left center field gave FGCU a 2-0 lead. 

But this time, in the top of the third inning Middle Tennessee responded. The Blue Raiders scored an unearned run to cut FGCU’s lead to 2-1.

Middle Tennessee was able to tie the game with another unearned run, this time in the top of the sixth inning as the game looked like it may have been going to extra innings.

However, in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Eagles rallied. With runners in scoring position on second and third base, Peterson drove in the game winning run with a single that brought home Viancos to end the game with a 3-2 win.

As the team put together impressive performances to go undefeated in the FGCU Invitational, a player that stood out the most was graduate student and right-hand pitcher Ally Hulme. Hulme was named ASUN Pitcher of the Week as in 11.2 innings, she didn’t give up any earned runs as well as struck out nine opposing batters while only giving up five walks.

After their 4-0 record in the FGCU Invitational, the Eagles welcomed No. 4 Washington on Feb. 20. The Huskies came into this game with a 6-1 record after the Eagles had just improved to 5-5 on the young season.

This game did not go as well for FGCU as Washington scored in the first, second and fourth innings to take a 6-0 lead. The Eagles were finally able to respond in the bottom of the sixth inning with an unearned run. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, another run crossed the plate for the Eagles as Feast earned her first collegiate hit with an RBI double that brought home sophomore outfielder Emily Chiarella.

That was all the Eagles could muster as the Huskies came away with an impressive 6-2 victory over the Eagles. FGCU is now 5-6 on the season as they get ready to head across the state to Boca Raton for the FAU Tournament. On the road for some time, the Eagles will be back home on March 6 where they will face Western Michigan and Sacred Heart.

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About the Contributor
James Curtis
James Curtis, Eagle News Sports Editor
James Curtis is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in global studies. He is from Tampa, FL, and has known he wanted to be a journalist since taking a journalism class in seventh grade. He has been involved in sports for his whole life, including swimming competitively all the way through high school. His goal now is to be a sports journalist. When not covering sports games or writing stories, he's usually spending his free time with his friends or watching YouTube.

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