FIU runner-up at Felsberg Memorial

By Yosvany Rodriguez/Staff Writer

The FIU softball team fell just short of a perfect start to its 2014 campaign, losing to the DePaul University Blue Demons 1-0 in the final game of the Felsberg Memorial.

The Memorial was also the debut of FIU’s new look stadium which took place on Feb. 7.

FIU swept day one of the Memorial by getting wins over the University of Maryland Terrapins, 15-9, and the Jacksonville University Dolphins, 5-3.

The Panthers (4-1) were able to come out on top in the slugfest that was game one of the Memorial. FIU came out of the gates hitting on all cylinders, defeating the Terrapins 15-9. They were led by freshman first baseman Stephanie Texeira who went 4-5 with one RBI and junior infielder Krystal Garcia who had two hits in the game including a grand slam.

The second game of the day saw far less offense as both teams combined for eight runs, in the 5-3 Panthers victory over the Dolphins. Last year’s freshman standout, sophomore pitcher Corinne Jenkins got the starting nod for FIU. Jenkins pitched a complete game allowing three runs on five hits while striking out six Dolphins to help the Panthers secure the win. Jenkins held the Dolphins best hitter, senior shortstop Karson Tuck without a hit in four at bats. Tuck received All Atlantic-Sun Conference first team honors in 2013.

The Panthers were able to get it done on the offensive side of the ball with efforts from sophomore catcher Aleima Lopez, junior outfielder Rebekah Sanchez, and Texeira who combined to go 6-10 with two RBI’s.

The Panthers picked up on day two of the Memorial right where they left off on day one, sweeping the day with two walk-off wins over DePaul, 8-0, and Maryland, 6-5.

Jenkins took the field for her second consecutive start and delivered with a complete-game shutout. The Panthers wasted no time disposing of the Blue Demons, as the they were able to put them away in just five innings.

For the third game in the row Texeira led the way for the Panthers with 3 hits in as many at bats, including a walk-off two run double in the fifth inning that gave FIU an 8-0 lead, which constitutes in an early knockout loss for DePaul.

The win over DePaul gave FIU the first seed in the Memorial and forced them to play fourth seeded Maryland.

In game two of the second day, Head Coach Jake Schumann called upon Jenkins for the third time in two days. Jenkins, who pitched a team high 132.2 innings in 2013, only tossed 46 pitches in 5 innings in game one of the double-header.

The rematch against the high-powered offense of Maryland would result in a thrilling high scoring finish, which resulted in another FIU victory, 6-5. Jenkins gave FIU two innings of work, allowing two runs on three hits. Senior Mariah Dawson relieved Jenkins.

Dawson pitched four innings, allowing three runs on six hits, but would leave with a no decision. The game went into the bottom of the seventh inning knotted up at, 5-5. Leading off the inning for the Panthers was Texeira who already hit a walk-off early that day. Sure enough, Texeira hit a shot toward the left center field wall that was less than a yard away from leaving the park and sending her squad to the championship game.

“Sometimes,” Texeira said. “I get the feeling off the bat that I’m like ‘You know what that’s going to be a really good shot,’ but with this fence I guess it’s just warning track.”

Regardless, Texeira managed to reach second base on the hit, giving the Panthers a golden chance at a win, with a runner in scoring position and no outs.  Schumann decided to put in sophomore outfielder Marisa McGregor to pinch-run for Texeira.

“I was really nervous,” Texeira said.“ “I was like ‘please put someone in for me.’ I was just relieved.”

McGregor would eventually score the winning run on a bases loaded pinch-hit walk-off walk from sophomore infielder Dani Mowry.

The final game of the Memorial featured a rematch against DePaul, which FIU had pummeled, 8-0.

However, DePaul started Kirsten Verdun, a three-time All-Big East first-teamer, in an attempt to slow down the Panthers. DePaul is 3-0, allowing just four runs, and striking out 28 in games in which Verdun pitches. However, in the two games where she has not pitched they are 0-2 and have been outscored 20 to zero while striking out just five players.

“I feel good I’m sure the team feels good,” Junior outfielder/pitcher Shelby Graves said. “It was really good for us to be strong, this is the strongest we’ve come out since I’ve been here we all gelled well. I think I just need to work on having a little bit more confidence in each pitch that I’m throwing and just nail the spot every time instead of second guessing it a little bit.”

For FIU, Graves would take to the pitching circle. Graves matched Verdun pitch for pitch, as both pitchers took a shutout into extra-innings. In extra-innings team’s start off with a runner on second, usually a team will bunt the runner over to third and then try to get them home with just one out. That is exactly what DePaul would do, scoring the expected one run in the eighth inning. When it was FIU’s turn to lay down the sacrifice bunt, it was popped up and put away for out number one of the inning. With one out and a runner on second as opposed to third, Verdun was able to retire the next two hitters, making DePaul the winner of the Felsberg Memorial.

“We practice base-running and bunting almost everyday in practice,” Schumann said. “It just comes down to execution when the games tight and its hot and people are cheering can you keep your bearing and can you keep your focus and we just didn’t do that in the seventh inning or in the eighth inning today and we came out on the short end. But, we’re just going to keep going, we’re 4-1 on the weekend and we’re happy.”

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