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Softball Drops Final Series of Conference Play Against the Owls Heading into Postseason Play

Lexi Harbach/FGCU Athletics

Entering the final series of the season, the Eagles had everything to play for as a chance to enter the 2024 ASUN Softball Championship as second-seed was up for grabs. However, FGCU faltered against the Kennesaw State University Owls, losing two out of the three games in the series and a chance at an additional bye.

The Eagles carried negative momentum into the weekend, dropping their final two games in their series against the Austin Peay State University Governors the previous weekend. The Governors sat eighth in the conference standings with a 6-15 record. The Eagles won the first game of the series with a commanding 8-3 victory, while they faltered in the following two games. They lost those matchups with a combined score of 6-14.

FGCU looked to end this losing streak against the Kennesaw State University Owls, who sat ninth in the standings with a 6-15 record. The Owls needed to win one more game than the Governors over the course of the weekend to have a shot at the postseason, so they had everything to play for.

The weekend started slow, as neither team scored points in the first four innings of Friday’s doubleheader. The Eagles claimed the first run of the game after Kennesaw State’s sophomore catcher Macie Howes overthrew second base, trying to prevent Eagles’ Avery Viancos from stealing. This allowed junior designated player McKenzie Wittenberg to come in for the run.

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The Owls’ followed this up by scoring two runs at the top of the sixth inning to take their first lead of the weekend. The Eagles tied the game up with another unearned run, scored by sophomore third baseman Nikki Gibson. This run resulted from an error by the Owls’ junior left fielder, Madison Miller, allowing her to come in for the score.

Both teams went scoreless in the seventh inning, pushing the game into extra innings. The Owls scored both runs in the eighth inning through errors made by the Eagles. Their first run at the top of the eighth inning occurred after an error turned a single to the left side of the field into an unearned run. 

The next run came spurred from a throwing error by sophomore second baseman Tiffany Meek. This allowed Kennesaw State to score their fourth and final run of the game. FGCU could not gain any momentum at the bottom of the eighth inning, resulting in a 2-4 loss against the Owls.

Game two started similarly to game one, as neither team could score in the first three innings. Kennesaw State scored a run in the top of the fourth inning to take an early 1-0 lead. The Owls built upon this by scoring one run in each of the next two innings, which resulted in a 3-0 lead heading into the seventh inning.

The Owls were not able to score a run at the top of the seventh inning, leaving it to the Eagles to get themselves back in the game. A single by Viancos saw sophomore right-fielder Emily Chiarella come in for the Eagles’ first run of the game. This was followed by a single up the middle of the field by graduate student catcher Neely Peterson, which allowed Viancos to score a run for herself. The run of scores concluded with a flyout by Meek that brought graduate student Riley Oakes in for the Eagles’ third run, tying the game 3-3. 

The game headed to extra innings. The Eagles needed to win this game to keep their chance of winning this series alive. This was to no avail as the Owls scored four runs at the top of the eighth. FGCU could not conjure up the same magic they had in the seventh inning. They lost 3-7.

The final game of the series was the final game for many seniors at the FGCU Softball Complex. The Eagles went on to win the final game of the series in dominant fashion, shutting out the Owls.

Unlike the previous two games, every run came in the first two innings. Peterson doubled to left center field to bring Oakes in for the first run of the game. The second run of the first inning came out of a single to right field by Meek. This brought the score to 2-0, exiting the first inning.

FGCU scored three more runs in the second inning. Redshirt junior first baseman Meagan Ricks fouled out to left field, allowing freshman shortstop Sophie Wylie to come in for an unearned run. The final two runs of the second inning came off a single by Gibson, which allowed Viancos and Chiarella to score. FGCU held this 5-0 lead for the rest of the game as they shut out the Owls for the final game of the regular season.

The Eagles head into the postseason seeded fourth with a 16-8 conference record. They finish the regular season with a season record of 33-19. This is their best finish to a season since their 2018 campaign when they finished with a 39-17 season record. 

These Eagles look to do something the program has not accomplished since 2012: winning an ASUN softball championship. They start their postseason by playing the fifth-seeded University of North Alabama Lions on May 8 in Oxford, Alabama.

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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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