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Eagles make Program History Defeating Florida State in Spring Break Classic

Lexi Harbach

Before the start of ASUN conference play, FGCU softball hosted the FGCU Spring Break Classic from March 8 to March 10. The Eagles played four games over three days, competing against Florida State University, Western Michigan University and the University of Pittsburgh. FGCU soared to victory, winning three out of their four games during the Spring Break Classic.

The Eagles entered this tournament with a 12-8 record after beating the Sacred Heart University Pioneers 6-0 in a midweek matchup. After a slow start to their season, they are finally picking up momentum, having won their last five of six games with all eyes on their first matchup of the tournament against the Florida State University Seminoles.

Florida State University was the highest-ranked team in the Spring Break Classic, ranked sixteenth. The Seminoles have never lost to the Eagles in their ten matchups dating back to 2012.

The Eagles started the game in dominating fashion as they struck out the Seminoles to start the second inning. Momentum would continue at the bottom of the inning as FGCU would collect their first two runs over the weekend.

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Freshman infielder Sophie Wylie singled, allowing sophomore shortstop Tiffany Meek to bring in the run. This was aided by a mistake by the Seminoles in which they overthrew the ball, trying to get Wylie out at the first.

Wylie brought in a run for herself after sophomore outfielder Emily Chiarella singled to shortstop, which allowed FGCU to grab the early lead.

The Eagles’ two errors of the game came in the third inning. Both errors allowed runners to advance to second base on two separate occasions. Florida State was not able to capitalize as senior pitcher Angelina Bonilla struck out the final batter to end the inning. Bonilla would be the sole pitcher for FGCU through game one, pitching all seven innings for the Eagles.

“I think just practice, we’ve been practicing a lot this year. And it also takes mental toughness, which I’ve been working on personally,” Bonilla said. “And I think that’s what it took to get me through all seven.”

Junior shortstop Kayleigh Roper extended the Eagles’ lead in the fourth inning with a single down the right-field line, allowing sophomore third basemen Nikki Gibson to bring in her first run of the day.

Florida State scored a late run in the top of the sixth inning to score its first run of the game. FGCU was able to hold them at bay, getting the final out of the inning off of a flyball with two Seminoles on base.

 The Seminoles could not capitalize on the momentum of the sixth inning, as the Eagles got their first two outs of a double-play. The final blow came with a groundout to third base, giving FGCU its first ranked win of the season.

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

Although the Eagles were able to produce the upset, their night was not over. They hope to finish off this monumental night with a win against the Western Michigan Broncos.

The Broncos striked first, scoring  two runs to open the game. These runs came after a hit down center field allowing both runners on pace to come in for the score. This was be the only time the Broncos scored as the Eagles held them to two more hits for the rest of the game.

Over the next four innings the Eagles were able to get back to home plate on six different occasions. During the second inning FGCU scored twice. The first of these runs came from a throwing error from Broncos allowing junior utility player McKenzie Wittenberg to score. A single by sophomore shortstop Tiffany Meek allowed Gibson to bring home the Eagles second run of the game.

Gibson was the player of the day for Friday’s doubleheader as she combined for the three runs and two hits. She has a batting average of 4.35, the highest over any of her fellow Eagles as of March 15.

“It means a lot. You know, we all stayed up and had each other’s back,”  Gibson said. “That’s what made me get up to the energy that everyone brought. It pumped me up to be a better teammate, as well.”

A wild pitch allowed graduate student Riley Oakes stole a second base in the third inning. This later allowed her to score the Eagles’ third run off of a grounded out. This momentum continued into the fourth inning as Gibson brought in her third run of the day off of a ground out. This was followed with a run by sophomore outfielder Olivia Black which stemmed from a wild pitch.

The Eagles final run came from Oakes after a flied out in right field. Western Michigan was not able to find the momentum they needed for the rest of the game which allowed FGCU to sweep their friday slate.

“Once we got that when it was electric, you know, in the locker room, everyone was cheering and we were all up supporting each other and really excited that, you know, we got the job done that we had been preparing, like the whole season for these big games is what we prefer.”

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

After a day off on Saturday, the Eagles hosted their third opponent, the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, in the FGCU Spring Break Classic. This was the first of two games on Sunday.

The Eagles started hot as they scored two runs in the first inning. A single by graduate student catcher Neely Peterson sent Meek home. Two batters later, another single, this time by Gibson advanced junior infielder Meagan Ricks home. 

The next several innings were defensive stands as both teams traded triple outs. In the fourth inning, the Panthers got on the board with a single score, making the score 2-1, with the Eagles still leading. After holding FGCU scoreless in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Panthers tied the game 2-2 in the fifth inning. 

 In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Eagles would respond with a run by Gibson off of a bunt. Senior pitcher Angelina Bonilla capitalized on the Eagles by shutting out the University of  Pittsburgh in the seventh inning to secure the win.

The FGCU Softball team rode a five game winning streak heading into their second showdown against the Seminoles following their game against the Panthers. The second game between the Eagles and Seminoles was a late addition to the schedule after weather related issues caused games to be canceled for both teams days before the start of the tournament. 

FGCU soared with four runs in the first inning. The Seminole defense was in a bind as they had to switch pitchers twice in the inning. All nine of the Eagle’s batters stepped up to bat that inning as the Eagles took an early 4-0 lead.

After a scoreless second inning, the Seminoles got on the board in the third inning with three runs caused two errors from the Eagles. Sophomore catcher Madison Carr responded for the Eagles with a double. This allowed freshman outfielder Camryn Feast and Gibson to extend FGCU’s lead to 6-3. 

The Seminoles continued to chop at the Eagles’ lead as they scored two runs in the fourth inning to cut the lead to 6-5. At the top of the fifth inning, the trajectory of the game all changed when  the Seminoles tied the game at 6-6.

The complexion of the game changed when Florida State suddenly scored seven more runs, including a grand slam while they were at two outs. After the Eagles led as much as 4-0 early in the game, the Seminoles now swung the game around as they took a 13-6 lead. 

The Eagles were unable to respond to the momentum shift. Both teams went scoreless the rest of the game as the Eagles lost 13-6. Despite the tough loss in the final game of the FGCU Spring Break Classic, FGCU had a lot of reasons to hold their heads up high.

“Playing these games are fun,” Deiros said. “Playing the best in the country is what it is all about and showing that you can go ahead and play with them is what the goal is for this particular team.”

After splitting a doubleheader against the University of South Florida on March 11 and a comeback win over UAB on March 13, the Eagles now hold a 17-10 record. They return to the FGCU Softball Complex on March 16 and 17 to begin ASUN conference play against Queens University.

“We have gotten better as it [the season] has gone along and we are a heck of a lot better than our first weekend after a 1-5 start,” Deiros said. “I am really proud of our progression so far, and I think the sky’s the limit.”

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About the Contributor
Jeffrey Hrunka
Jeffrey Hrunka, Eagle News Assistant Sports Editor
Jeffrey Hrunka is a junior double majoring in communications and journalism with a concentration in public relations. Jeffrey is from Fort Myers where his interest in sports journalism originated after falling in love with the world of motorsports. When he’s not working for Eagle News, he is usually spending time with friends, watching the New York Giants lose, or chilling in the pool.

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