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FGCU fastpitch faces another tough schedule

Eagles playing 14 in the top 100 national rankings including Florida State

FGCU Softball Head Coach David Deiros is known for putting his squad on a collision course, at least once a year, against some of the most successful programs in the country. In 2012, the Green and Blue played then-No. 2 Florida in a tournament at the University of South Florida in the beginning of the season. In 2013, the University of Alabama visited The Nest as the No. 1 team in the country. Playing in front of 1,109 fans, the Eagles fought hard but ultimately fell to the Crimson Tide, 2-1.

Although Deiros did not put any top two teams on the schedule for this season, the Eagles will be playing a much stronger schedule than ever: Out of 29 different schools the Eagles will play this season, 14 are top 100 nationally ranked schools. Eight of those teams are ranked in the top 50, including Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky, USC Upstate and Lipscomb, while Florida State, Hofstra and Wisconsin rank top 25.

“The Atlantic Sun is one of the strongest softball conferences in the country (RPIranked 8th out of 30 conferences),” Deiros said. “We finished with an RPI of 55 last season, and another six of the remaining nine institutions in our conference were ranked in the top 100 (out of 291 schools). In order to prepare for the gauntlet that is A-Sun play, we want to play the best nonconference we can possibly get. We also want to impress the national voters that select the 64 teams that go to the NCAA Tournament with the strength of our schedule.”

For the last two seasons, the Eagles racked up an impressive 39-12 record at home. This year, FGCU will be playing 37 games at The Nest, the most home games since the 2006 season, when the Green and Blue went 44-3.

Seems like the ladies loves to play on the home turf.

“I think a lot of it has to do with our comfort level playing at home. We have great facilities that we are used to,” junior outfielder Kelsey Carpenter said. “We also get great fans that come to our games. We want to perform at an even higher level when we get more fans at our games. Also, little things like walk-up songs and the pregame warm-up CD that we make get us pumped up.”

Carpenter will certainly be enjoying more walk-up songs since she arrived to FGCU as the Eagles open the season hosting three of four total tournaments at The Nest. The Green and Blue will be seeking home field success as they give the ball to the reigning A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year and A-Sun Preseason All-Conference first team member Shelby Morgan. Morgan, who was the A-Sun Pitcher of the Year and NFCA All-South Region second team her freshman year, went 12-6 along with 2.94 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 107 innings of work as a sophomore. However, her sophomore year was cut short due to a tear in her right bicep.

On the batting side, junior outfielder Kelsey Carpenter is expect to contribute in a major way for the Eagles, as she finished her sophomore season with a batting average of .380 with 60 hits, nine homeruns, 35 RBI and 49 runs scored. Reigning A-Sun Co- Player of the Year, senior catcher Chelsea Zgrabik, is looking to finish her collegiate career on a big note as the power hitter led the team in home runs and RBI with 15 homers and 56 RBI her junior year.

FGCU softball will play host in the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational, which starts Feb. 7. The Eagles will play SEC foe Ole Miss and Big East member Georgetown on day 1 of play, then battle Western Kentucky and Liberty on day 2. Their opponents for the double-header on day 3 have yet to be determined.

“We wanted to give our students and fans at Southwest Florida plenty of chances to watch competitive softball.” Deiros said. “We play 37 home games at the FGCU Softball Stadium against very good teams. We are excited to get started.”

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