FIU softball finishes Felsberg Invitational strong, goes 3-2

Junior Alexis Ross smiling on the field. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Brian Olmo | Sports Director

The FIU softball team finished the Felsberg Invitational with a 3-2 record on Sunday, Feb. 12 at the FIU Softball Stadium.

FIU’s first match was against No. 10 Clemson, a relatively new but fierce and successful program. In 2020, the Tigers had a 19-8 overall record and a 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference record before the season was canceled due to COVID-19. In 2021, their first full season, they finished 44-8 overall and 29-5 in the ACC, winning the regular season championship.

The Panther’s last season was marred by inconsistency and an abysmal away record. When playing on the road, FIU had a 3-14 record. Their overall record that year was an unimpressive 19-31. The team looks to change its fortunes heading into the new season.

In the battle of the big cats, the Tigers lampooned the Panthers in a 10-1 beatdown. Clemson drew first blood, scoring four runs in the top of the first.

Sophomore Ashton Lansdell hit the first home run of her career to finally put FIU on the board after they fell behind 6-0 in the opening two innings. It was a small drop in a largely empty bucket, as it would be FIU’s only point for the entire game. Clemson’s Millie Thompson put on a show, only allowing three hits and one run to the Panthers over three innings.

Clemson finished the contest with 12 hits and four home runs, trampling FIU.

After the humiliating loss, the Panthers rebounded with a resounding 9-2 win against their next opponent, the Kansas City Roos.

FIU clobbered the Roos with six runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Panthers started the game down 2-0. Freshman Isabella Perez and junior Carmen Perez got the team going with a single and double before junior Alexis Ross hit a double that gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead. Lansdell then piled on an RBI single and freshman Makayla Navarro with her own single to increase the margin to 6-2.

The Panther’s 13 hits in this game are the team’s highest total over their last 64 games.

Up next for FIU was a two-game run against Georgia State and Kansas City on the same day.

In their game against Georgia State, the Panthers scored early in the bottom of the first. But it didn’t take long for Georgia State to start swinging, earning themselves a 3-2 advantage at the top of the fifth thanks in part to a pair of FIU errors.

Momentum shifted in the Panther’s favor after the team posted a pair of runs during their half of the fifth. Ross scored on a sacrifice fly and senior Frankie Izard gave FIU the lead for good after she scored on a Georgia State error, 4-3.

A few hours later, FIU rematched Kansas City and this time, the Roos came to play. They jumped out to an early 2-0 lead behind a pair of runs on a single and forced the Panthers to act quickly or be left in the dust.

With the ball in their court, the Panthers decided to fight back and rally, carving out a 3-2 edge for themselves off the efforts of Freshman Kaleena Downing and Perez. Downing had her first collegiate homer to put FIU on the board and Perez drove home a pair on the fifth with a double.

After Kansas City reclaimed the lead, the Panthers tied it back up to send the game into extra innings, where Izard would seal the deal with a clutch two-out single in the bottom of the eighth to set up the decisive run, 5-4 (8).

Waiting for FIU at the end was the team that defeated them to start this invitational, the Clemson Tigers. For the Panthers, it was the perfect time to exact some revenge.

Unfortunately for FIU, their dish best served cold was thawed out and spoiled by the Tigers, as they fell 4-0. The Panthers kept Clemson scoreless for the first three innings, but it wouldn’t last. The Tigers clawed themselves back into the scoring column with one run in the fourth inning courtesy of senior Julia Bomhardt and three runs in the fifth inning off a two-RBI double from sophomore Maddie Moore.

The biggest X factor for the Tigers this time was junior Valerie Cagle, who did it all for Clemson in a well-rounded effort, limiting the Panthers to zero runs and only five hits over seven innings.

FIU’s performance in the Felsberg Invitational this year is a far cry from last season’s, where the Panthers finished 1-3. It’s a promising sign that the program is heading in the right direction.

The team now looks ahead to their matchup against Stetson on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Felsberg Field in Miami. The first pitch is set for 5 p.m.

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