Ft. Myers, Fla. – Despite taking early leads in both games and getting a pari of home runs from Meredith Barnes, the USC Upstate softball team dropped both games of its a-Sun doubleheader at Florida Gulf Coast Saturday at the FGCU Softball Complex. FGCU won by scores of 10-2 and 3-1.
Upstate fell to 36-7 overall and 16-5 in the A-Sun. FGCU improved to 32-15 overall and 13-6 in the conference. The teams will return to action Sunday afternoon for a 1:00 p.m. start to the final game of the series.
Barnes (Salem, Ore.) didn't waste any time getting started, leading off the game with a towering solo home run to left that gave Upstate a 1-0 lead. It was her ninth homer of the season.
FGCU responded in the bottom of the second inning. With a runner on first, Kirsten Bembnowski doubled to put runners on second and third. Brittney Garabedian followed with a double to drive in both runners as the Eagles opened a 2-1 lead.
Barnes produced again for the Spartans in the third. She slapped what looked to be a single through the right side, but the diving FGCU second baseman tipped the ball off the end of her glove causing the ball to scoot by the right fielder and Barnes motored around the bases for an inside the park home run to tie the game at 2-2. It was the first inside the park home run for the Spartans since 2004 when Krista Altom hit an inside the park homer in the 2-1 win over Armstrong Atlantic State in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.
In a back and forth affair, FGCU regained the lead in the fourth inning. Bembnowski and Garabedian delivered again for the Eagles with Bembnowski slapping a double to right center and Garabedian hitting a double to right center to again bring Bembnowski home to give FGCU a 3-2 advantage.
FGCU stretched its lead in the bottom of the fifth. The Eagles put runners on first and second with one out when rain showers caused a 41-minute rain delay. The delay was not kind to Upstate as FGCU came out and scored seven runs to end the game.
After the delay, Upstate reliever Anna Miller (Portland, Ore.) struck out Mariah Fernandez for the second out, but Garabedian drew a bases loaded walk to give the Eagles a 4-2 lead. Alexis Ross hit a bloop single to left that brought in two runs as FGCU opened a 6-2 advantage. Jessica Barnes hit an RBI double to left as the Eagle lead grew to 7-2. Chelsea Zgrabik made it a 9-2 lead with a two-run single through the right side and the Eagles ended the game when Kelsey Carpenter singled in the hole between third and shortstop to drive in a run for the 10-2 win.
Upstate starter Hannah Alexander (Lexington, N.C.) took the loss after allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings of work. She fell to 15-3 on the year. FGCU starter Jaclyn Owen improved to 9-6 on the year with the win.
Barnes highlighted the offense for Upstate, finishing the game with two home runs. She now has 10 home runs on the season. Coupled with Shellie Robinson's (DeLand, Fla.) 11 dingers, this is the first year since Upstate moved to Division I in 2008 that the Spartans have had two players with double figure home run totals.
After a scoreless first inning, both Upstate and FGCU plated a run in the second inning of game two. With runners on first and third, Maddison Kieffer (Middleburg, Fla.) grounded out to second, but drove in Dana Landers (Simpsonville, S.C.) from third to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead. The Eagles tied it up Garabedian's RBI double.
After three scoreless innings, FGCU jumped on top in the sixth inning. With runners on second and third with one out, Emily Lanier laid down a squeeze bunt that was successful, bringing in the runner from third, giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead, and runners on first and third with one out. Fernandez followed with a sacrifice fly to center to give FGCU a 3-1 lead.
Upstate starter Jamie Ujvari (Niceville, Fla.) went the distance, allowing three runs on six FGCU hits to take the loss and fall to 16-2 on the year. She struck out five in a solid effort. FGCU starter Amanda Josie improved to 11-3 on the year with the win.
Landers led Upstate at the plate with two hits. Barnes added a hit to give her three hits on the day.