JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 26, 2009) - The ETSU softball team had its chance to knock off the most explosive team in the Atlantic Sun on Saturday afternoon, but when it was all said and done, Florida Gulf Coast capitalized on clutch two-out hitting to pull off a sweep over the Lady Bucs.
The Eagles rallied past the Lady Bucs in both contests - winning the first game 11-5 - and FGCU capped off the afternoon with a 5-4 victory in the nightcap from the FGCU Softball Complex.
With the sweep, ETSU finished the four-game Florida road swing with a 1-3 mark, and the Lady Bucs dropped to 18-12, 3-7 in A-Sun play. Meanwhile, the nationally-ranked Eagles have now won 29 of their last 30 games to improve to 37-5, 7-1.
Game One Recap
The Lady Bucs struck first in the top of the second when Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) beat out a two-out chopper to short, which plated Vicki McCoy (Ringgold, Ga.) - giving ETSU an early 1-0 lead. McCoy reached on a throwing error by second baseman Christa Piquette and took second after the ball went out of play. On the next at-bat, freshman Annie Martin (Centerville, Tenn.) laid down a perfect sac bunt and led to McCoy advancing to third.
ETSU let a golden opportunity slip away in the third after the Lady Bucs couldn't drive home Kate Powell (Johnson City) and Trisha Massenzo (Russellville, Tenn.) - who both led off the inning with consecutive infield singles. With no outs and the runners on first and second, Catherine McDaniel struck out Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.) swinging - and after Amy Campbell (Hixson, Tenn.) safely executed a sacrifice bunt - freshman designated player Chelsea O'Connor (Knoxville, Tenn.) lined out to short leaving the Lady Buccaneer runners stranded in scoring position.
Junior right-hander Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) kept the highest scoring team in the league off the board in the first two innings, but the Eagles didn't stay grounded for long. FGCU's Lauran Ziegler led off the bottom of the third with a single to left and trotted home on Jessica Paez's two-run homer to left - putting the Eagles up 2-1. However, Gilbert did a solid job getting out of the inning without surrendering any more runs by forcing the league's top hitter in Cheyenne Jenks to ground back to the circle, and after back-to-back walks, the Murfreesboro, Tenn. native induced Desiree Miller into a fielders' choice to end the frame.
The Lady Bucs didn't trail for long as they scored three runs on four hits in the top of the fourth and regained the lead, 4-2. Martin began the fun by working a one-out full-count walk and moved to third when Cason singled to right. Junior second baseman Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.) loaded the bases when she reached on an infield single to short, and Powell tied the game at 2-all when her single to right scored Martin. Then, with one out and the bases full of Lady Bucs, Massenzo singled to short and Paez went home to try to get Cason out at the plate, but the junior speedster beat the throw - and after the ball ricocheted to the backstop - Jett was able to come home to make it a 4-2 ballgame. After FGCU intentionally walked Hackworth to once again load the bases, McDaniel worked out of the jam by striking out pinch hitter Ashley Boyd (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and O'Connor.
The Eagles struck again in the bottom half of the inning and chased Gilbert out of the game after she couldn't work out of a one-out jam. Piquette was the first runner to get on board when she doubled to the gap in right and Lauran Ziegler worked a one-out walk, which placed runners on first and second. Gilbert then forced Jessica Gary to ground to Cason at short, but the Moreno Valley, Calif. native couldn't handle the ball and loaded the bases for FGCU. After Paez cut the deficit to 4-3 on a bases loaded walk, ETSU made the switch to Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) in the circle. Hardy wasn't greeted nicely; as Jenks doubled to left-center and scored two runs to put Eagles back up, 5-4. FGCU pushed two more runs across the plate when Jessica Carter singled; however, she ended the inning when she tried to take second on the throw home.
Paez continued to haunt the Lady Bucs and FGCU broke the game wide open in the fifth when she homered for the second time in the contest. However, this time Paez's bomb was a two-out grand slam and the Eagles extended its lead to, 11-4.
Senior outfielder Cat Zyskowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.) made great use of her second at-bat of the year by smashing a one-out pitch over the wall in left - making it an 11-5 contest in the seventh. Unfortunately the Lady Bucs ran out of gas and the Eagles took game one by the same score.
Gilbert suffered the loss after allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits and saw her record drop to 8-4 on the year. McDaniel moved her record to a perfect 16-0 after allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits.
Game Two Release
Once again, just like in game one, Cheniece Cason gave the Lady Bucs an early 1-0 lead when she reached on an error and Annie Martin came around to score on the roller to short. The Eagles threatened in the bottom half of the inning, but Darci Gilbert did an excellent job working out of the situation by forcing Jessica Gary to ground out to short
After Gilbert kept FGCU scoreless for the first three innings, the Eagles responded with a run in the bottom of the fourth. Courtney Platt led off the inning with a solo home run to center; however, stellar Lady Buccaneer defense held FGCU to the lone run. After Lindsey Green worked a walk, she was forced out at second on Christa Piquette's grounder to short. Then, with one out and a runner on second, Lauran Ziegler lined out to Cason at short and the junior fired to first and doubled up Piquette to end the inning.
Junior catcher Trisha Massenzo came through in the clutch the very next inning, when she sent a two-out full-count pitch over the wall in left - marking her second blast of the year - and it put ETSU back up, 2-1. The Lady Bucs continued to add to their lead later in the inning when Annie Martin singled home Jessie Hackworth and moved Cat Zyskowski to third. Then, with runners on the corners, head coach Andrea Mangrum's double-steal call worked, as Zyskowski touched the plate before Martin was tagged out in a rundown - giving ETSU a 4-1 lead.
However, after that play that's when things quickly went south for the Lady Bucs.
Florida Gulf Coast chipped away and cut the deficit to one (4-3) by plating two runs on one hit in the bottom of the sixth. The Eagles scored their first run on a Cason error at short and FGCU tacked on another RBI on Ziegler's ground out by. Once again Gilbert worked out of another jam by making Jessica Gary ground out to second, which left the game-tying run stranded at second.
Then, an inning later, ETSU looked to have everything wrapped up when Cheyenne Jenks lined into a double play at third but a hit batter - followed by an error by Jett at second - led to consecutive singles, which scored the game-winning runs (both unearned) and the Eagles capped off the sweep with a 5-4 victory.
Gilbert gave the Lady Bucs a chance to win, but she suffered her second loss of the day and dropped to 8-5. The junior righty allowed five runs (three earned) on 11 hits and struck out two. Morgan Campen was issued the win (2-0) after tossing two scoreless innings in relief.
ETSU returns to action on Tuesday evening when the Lady Bucs open a five-game homestand with 2008 Women's College World Series participant Virginia Tech visits the ETSU Softball Complex. First pitch of the single-game is set for 5 p.m.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.