Panthers’ softball will rely heavily on freshmen

Nicholas Poblete/Panther Press

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director


In the Panthers’ first game of the season at the Felsberg Invitational, the team’s opening lineup included an array of freshmen.

Second baseman Venessa Gallegos and catcher AnnMarie Cooker made their college debuts against the St. John’s Red Storm and contributed towards the team’s first victory of the year.

Gallegos concluded her first game as a Panther with one hit in her three at bats, while Cooker finished failed to generate a hit in her two at bats.

“We have a good 5 or 6 that we know are solid,” said Panthers’ Head Coach Gator Rebhan, following the first day of the Felsberg Invitational. “Right now we have a couple of young girls battling to see who’s going to take over certain positions.”

Later in the sixth inning against the Red Storm, freshman Kayla Whitehead made her career debut by pinch-hitting for Cooker.

At the conclusion of the Felsberg Invitational, FIU featured a total of seven different freshmen.

With the crucial roles the freshmen will play this season, sophomore pitcher Shannon Saile has become a leader for the new players on the team and says the freshmen have stepped up early in the season.

“I’m actually really close to the freshmen,” said last season’s Conference USA Freshman of the Year. “I enjoy being a leader for them.”

Having been a freshman last year, Saile explained some of the difficulties of transitioning from high school to college.

“The faster pace, the bigger hitters, relying on my team as much as I can are some differences I’ve noticed so far,” said Saile during her freshman campaign.

Offensively, the Panthers struggled to generate runs throughout the Felsberg Invitational. In six games, the most runs FIU was able to string together in a game was four.

Head Coach Gator Rebhan discussed how the freshmen needed to improve on certain aspects, and also get more comfortable playing in collegiate softball.

“Unfortunately, our younger players struggled defensively,” said the fourth-year head coach. “They gotta loosen up and not feel the pressure. We’re a good defense; we shouldn’t be making these mistakes. Just hoping its freshman jitters.”

Next up for the Panthers’ softball, the team will return to Felsberg Field for the FIU Classic, as they host Central Connecticut State on Friday, Feb. 23. This will be the first of six games the Panthers will play during the FIU Classic.

Following the opening game against the Blue Devils, the softball team will play the Boston College Eagles twice. Once on Friday after their matchup against CCS, and also on Saturday, Feb. 24.

The final three games of the classic will feature two outings against the Michigan State Spartans, once on Saturday and again on Sunday, and also a matchup against Siena on Saturday.

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