Panthers’ softball secure No. 3 seed in 2018 C-USA Softball Championship

The Panthers drop the ball against North Texas University over the weekend of March 30 and March 31. This image was taken last year. (Nicholas Poblete/PantherNow)

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director


The FIU softball team has earned the No. 3 seed in the 2018 Conference USA Championship Tournament following the conclusion of their regular season this past Sunday. The Panthers concluded their year going 30-24 overall and 14-8 in C-USA.

With the field now set for the conference tournament, eight teams will have an opportunity at the C-USA postseason championship and also an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Day one of the tournament on Wednesday, May 9, will feature single-elimination with No. 5 Marshall and No. 8 Western Kentucky battling it out in the opening game, and also No. 6 Middle Tennessee and No. 7 North Texas in the second game.

After FIU and Louisiana Tech receive a single game bye, both teams will face their opponents in the second part of round one. Louisiana Tech, the 2017 C-USA Champions, will wait for the winner of Marshall and Western Kentucky matchup, while FIU awaits the winner of Middle Tennessee and North Texas.

No. 1 Florida Atlantic and No. 2 UAB, who received double-byes, have their first games slated for the quarterfinals in Day two of the tournament. The Owls will either face the No. 4, 5 or 8 seed, while the Blazers will face either the No. 3, 6 or 7 seed.

On Days two and three, the tournament will change into double-elimination format until the final two teams remain. The opening loser’s bracket matchup is set for Friday, May 11, at 2:30 p.m., with the second game slated for 4:30 p.m. For the winner’s bracket, the squad to win the semifinal on Friday at 12 p.m. will advance right to the championship game on Saturday, May 12, at 12 p.m.

For the Panthers, the team has won eight of their last ten games and has seen incredible growth since the beginning of the season. At the conclusion of the first half of the regular season, the team posted a disappointing 13-14 overall record, however, managed to turn the momentum by finishing out 17-10.

Pitcher Shannon Saile has been a cornerstone in the team’s success this year, with her leading the team to 17 wins, which is tied for second best in the C-USA. The sophomore ace leads the conference with 259 strikeouts and has a 1.84 ERA.

“Shannon’s doing well, it’s what we expected from her,” said head coach Gator Rebhan on the overall performance of Saile so far this season. “She’s come in and shut the games down when we needed it.”

Along with the stellar pitching from Saile, the freshmen for the team were instrumental in the team’s turn around.

“The freshmen are playing good. It’s tough as a freshman to come in play well, especially in pressure situations,” said Rebhan, following the team’s critical win against Middle Tennessee earlier in the season. “We’re in conference play and in the middle of the pack, so it’s like our backs are against the wall. You know they’re hanging in there, they’re not playing like freshmen.”

In the final game of the regular season, freshman pitcher Kendahl Dunford earned her third win of the season and limited the opposition to just one earned run in the seven innings she pitched. Dunford has solidified herself as the third starting pitcher for the team with her posting a 2.73 ERA in the 15 games she has appeared in.

Freshman second baseman Venessa Gallegos was also a large factor in the team’s win in the regular season finale, as she ended the matchup with two hits and two RBI in her three at-bats. Gallegos has appeared in 52 of the team’s 54 games this season and is tied for first on the team in RBIs.

The Panthers have earned a single game bye and will take on either No. 6 Middle Tennessee or No. 7 North Texas Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at Sue M. Daughtridge Stadium in Charlotte, NC. This season, FIU took two out of three games against the Blue Raiders in their series at Felsberg Field, and also swept the Mean Green in their doubleheader in Denton, TX.

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