NASHVILLE, Tenn. - After a scheduled three-game series at UNF (May 3-4) was rained out because of inclemant weather in Jacksonville to wrap up the 2013 regular season, the FGCU softball team will turn the page to the postseason for the Atlantic Sun tournament hosted by Lipscomb at Draper Diamond in Nashville, Tenn. FGCU will look to remain on its hot streak as the Eagles have won eight of their last nine games.
The Eagles collected the No. 3 seed for the tournament by finishing with an overall record of 35-16 and a 16-7 mark in A-Sun play. Their day one opponent will be the sixth seeded Stetson Hatters who finished with a 30-20 record and a 13-13 finish against conference competition. The two sides will face off on Wednesday, May 8, at 4 p.m. EST in a game that will be the first of the 2013 A-Sun softball tournament, which is of a double-elimination format.
"This season has really been a test for this team," said assistant coach Alycia Bachkora. "They have stuck together and been extremely resilient in everything they do. That is what is going to power us through this tournament. We continue to tell them that if they each do their own part and believe that the girl next to them will do hers, we will be successful. Those are words we have lived by this whole season and we will continue to live by throughout the course of this tournament."
The Hatters were selected to finish sixth in the 2013 A-Sun Preseason Coaches' Poll, the very same poll in which the Eagles were unanimously selected to finish first in with FGCU having received all 10 first place votes.
Meredith Owen poses the biggest threat the FGCU pitching staff as the Stetson junior has posted a 21-8 mark from inside the circle with a 1.82 ERA, while leading the Hatters in batting average (.321), home runs (10), RBI (32) and slugging percentage (.567).
Both clubs know how to work the pitch count against opposing pitchers as FGCU ranks first in the A-Sun in walks (222) and Stetson ranks third in the category (166).
FGCU will look to capitalize when opportunities arise from placing runners on base as they have done in the past. The Green and Blue finished the regular season with the most RBI among A-Sun teams (259) through 51 games played. The Eagles offense finished the year at the top of several A-Sun offensive categories as they rank fourth in doubles (65), second in triples (16) and tied for first in home runs (48).
Defense has also been a strong suit for FGCU as the 2013 Eagles squad ranks second in fielding percentage (.966), second in assists (522) and first in fielding double plays (26).
"If the girls execute their game plans and believe in each other then we will come out on top," Bachkora said. "We have to look at this week as one game at a time, one day at a time. Each team in this tournament earned their way in so it will come down to who wants it more. Our destiny is now in our own hands and that's exactly where we want it."
FGCU and Stetson have met a total of 16 times in the history of the programs with the Eagles leading the series 9-7 in those contests. The Green and Blue have won five straight against the Hatters dating back to the 2012 season. The two sides most recently met at the FGCU Softball Complex, Mar. 16-17, with FGCU having swept its three-game set against Stetson. After falling behind early in two of the games in their series with Stetson, the Eagles came back to win both and in two games, FGCU collected walk-off wins.
With a win over Stetson, FGCU will advance to play No. 2 seed USC Upstate on Thursday, May 9 at 11 a.m. The Eagles won their series against the Spartans by winning two of the three contests (Apr. 20-21), with one of the FGCU wins coming by a score of 10-2 in five innings by run rule.
A loss to the Hatters would place the Green and Blue in an elimination game against the loser of No. 4 Lipscomb vs. No. 5 Kennesaw State on Thursday, May 9 at 3 p.m. Both Lipscomb and KSU got the better of FGCU this season as the Bisons swept the Eagles at the FGCU Softball Complex (Mar. 29-30), while the Owls took two of three from FGCU at Bailey Park in Kennesaw, Ga. (Apr. 9-10).
The game between the Eagles and Hatters can be viewed live and free of charge on ASun.TV with tickets still available for purchase ($10 for daily admission and $25 for a tournament pass).
In-game Twitter updates (@FGCU_Softball), results and a recap from the day's action will be available at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com