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Softball: FAU falls 0-2 in NCAA regional tournament

It only took two seasons for first-time head coach Jordan Clark to take FAU softball back to the NCAA regionals, a place the Owls haven’t seen since 2016.

Editors note: A previous version of the story had misspelled FGCU’s Neely Peterson’s name. 

It only took two seasons for first-time head coach Jordan Clark to take FAU softball back to the NCAA regionals, a place the Owls haven’t seen since 2016.

Despite falling short in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament, FAU ended the regular season with a 41-14 (21-6 AAC) record to tie for first in the AAC. They brought FAU their first AAC banner.  The Owls secured an at-large bid in the tournament for a chance to play in the Women’s College World Series in the Gainesville regional.

In the first round of the tournament, four teams play against each other until all but one team has two losses on their record. The last team standing moves on to Super Regionals.

The Gainesville regional was hosted by none other than the reigning Southeastern Conference tournament champion Florida Gators (48-12, 17-7 SEC). The other teams included the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament champion Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (38-21, 16-8 ASUN) and the South Alabama Jaguars (34-19-1, 16-8 Sun Belt conference). 

FAU battled not only the rain element but the tough competition as well. The Owls first game was a tight 1-0 loss to South Alabama. Despite the loss, there remained hope for a win against FGCU to allow them to continue in the tournament. 

After the Owls led 1-0 for five innings, the Eagles soared back during the top of the sixth and seventh to gain three runs for the lead. FAU batted with a clear purpose and got one run on the board, but it was not enough for a comeback and their Gainesville regional time expired. 

Game 1 (Friday, May 17th): South Alabama – 1, FAU – 0

The game was a defensive chess match, starting with the duel between FAU starting pitcher Gabbie Sacco and South Alabama starting pitcher Olivia Lackie. 

The Jaguars got their first hit in the second inning for a single, but couldn’t capitalize early. The Owls couldn’t land their first hit until the fourth inning thanks to a single by Kamryn Jacks down the middle. Despite walking some batters, Sacco and the defense were holding it down with no allowed runs. 

This included an incredible play by Presley Leebrick at the bottom of the fourth to get the Owl defense off the field and keep the score 0-0. 

“Gabbie was doing an awesome job, so whatever we could do to help her get out of those jams,” said Leebrick.

At the top of the fifth, Lackie and the Jaguar defense seemed to be getting tired, allowing two hits and putting runners in scoring position, however the Owls couldn’t capitalize as Leebrick had a flyout to end the inning. 

Heading into the sixth inning, it began to set in that it was crunch time for both teams to get a run on the board. With the Owls up first, it was three straight outs, no hits.

With Sacco up on the mound slowly approaching 100 pitches on the day, she had only given up two hits the whole afternoon. 

She started off by walking the first batter. The second batter gave up a sacrifice bunt that put a runner on second. It would then be South Alabama junior Stephanie Gonzalez that’d deliver the go-ahead RBI double and put the Jaguars up one. 

After giving up another hit, Sacco was subbed out. She ended the day with four hits, 1 earned run and three kills in 5.2 innings. Ainsley Lamb came in and finished the inning.

“Gabbie pitched her absolutely butt off. To see her step up on that stage is something that I get to walk away with really proud,” said Clark post-game.

In a do-or-die inning for the Owls, freshman Kiley Channel opened it up with a single to right field. She had two hits on three at bats on the day to lead the Owls. Katelynn de Leon followed her up with a hit of her own to get runners in scoring position with no outs to start the inning. 

Maddie Mayo attempted a sacrifice bunt, but got an unfavorable roll to the left that resulted in Channel getting ruled out at third, one out with runners still at second and first. 

Lackie locked in and struck Becca Jones out swinging. 

With two outs and the game on the line, Holly Pellus came in to pinch run for de Leon. Kylie Hammonds steps up to the plate and gets a hit right in the zone of right field to get runners moving. 

As Pellus sprints to score the game-tying run, the Jaguars right fielder makes an incredible throw to their catcher and catches her out, game over. 

“That one hurts,” said Clark in her opening post-game press statement. “The frustrating part is that we had every opportunity to execute. You come this far and you think you’re ready for certain situations and to know those big moments got a little bigger than they should’ve been, it’s frustrating.”

Game 2 (Saturday, May 18th): FGCU-3, FAU-2

The Owls came into the game with a vengeance from their loss the day prior. FGCU quickly discovered Trinity Schlotterbeck’s pitching strength. She struck out two of their first three batters and prohibited a runner from getting on base. 

Kamryn Jackson hit a line drive down to first that was tipped off FGCU’s glove and she ran for two bases. Jesiana Mora came up to the plate and popped a ball up to in field that brought Jackson home, 1-0. 

Schlotterbeck continued her momentum from the first inning and struck out two more FGCU batters to get three strikeouts in a row. Meagan Ricks hit a low ball down middle field to be the Eagles first batter on base. 

Ricks quickly decided to steal a base to second, giving FGCU their 101st stolen base of the season. The Owls’ outfield caught a fly ball to left center and ended the inning. 

The next four innings were dominated by both teams’ pitching strength. Schlotterbeck allowed for three runners to get on base and FGCU’s pitcher Angelina Bonilla limited FAU to only get on base once.

At the top of the sixth, FGCUs’ Avery Viancos bunted to get on first base with no outs. While her teammate swung for a strike, Viancos stole to second base to put herself in scoring position. 

The Owls challenged the steal, claiming that Viancos left the base early but it was denied. Neely Petterson hit an RBI single and Viancos sprinted home seconds before the Owls tried to tag her out and tied the game up, 1-1. 

Bonilla gave FAU their first walk on but the Owls could not take advantage of the runner on base and struck out on the next batter.

In the top of the seventh with two outs on the board, Schlotterbeck gave up her first walk of the night and the Eagles used that to fuel their momentum. 

Sophie Wylie hit just to the left of Channel and FGCU had two runners on bases. Viancos followed up with a two-run triple to give the Eagles a 3-1 lead. 

Being down by two in the final inning, FAU had to capitalize. 

Mora got a single and Channel followed with a single of her own but the Eagles tagged Mora out. Abby Ota subbed in as a pinch runner for Channel. 

Schlotterbeck hit a single, which put runners at first and third. Becca Jones hit a high ball that was caught, but Abby Ota scored, 2-3. 

Zoey Jones hit a line drive and gave FAU runners at the corners with two outs. 

Freshman pitcher Allison Sparkman was subbed in for Bonilla. Cameryn Orland hit a bouncer up the middle, ending the game for the third out.

Megan Bruinsma is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email her at or DM her on Instagram @megan_bruinsma or X(Twitter) @MeganBruinsma.

JD Delcastillo is the Managing Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email him at or DM on Instagram @jd.delcastillo or X (Twitter) @jd_delcastillo.

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