Getting into the swing of things: Softball’s season is set to begin

Will Duval | Sports Director

The FIU softball team begins their new campaign by hosting three teams in the Felsberg Invitational tournament, beginning on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 in Miami, Florida.

Hitting the ground running, the Panthers are set to play their first five games of the season over a span of three days. In 2023, they left the tournament with a 3-2 record after losing their final game against the Clemson Tigers.

The 2023 season:

Outside of their performance in last year’s invitational, FIU went on to finish their season with a 24-26 record. They also held a 10-14 record against conference teams, which placed them eighth in the Conference USA standings.

After going on a three game win streak to close out the regular season, their momentum was abruptly halted in the Conference USA Championship tournament on May 10, 2023 in Ruston, Louisiana.

Entering the tournament as the eighth seed, the Panthers’ first round matchup came against the fifth-seeded Western Kentucky Lady Toppers. In a low-scoring game from out of both teams, neither team was able to score a run until the fourth inning.

Able to strike first, senior outfielder Brylee Hage reached on an error and allowed fifth year outfielder Taylor Davis to score for WKU. 

Only two at-bats later, junior catcher Jessica Bush hit a single, which gave Hage the opportunity to reach home plate. Scoring twice over the course of three at-bats, the Lady Toppers secured a 2-0 lead to close out the fourth inning.

In need of offense, FIU couldn’t find a consistent option until the sixth inning. After hitting back-to-back singles, junior outfielder Brooke McCann hit a single of her own and allowed sophomore infielder Makayla Navarro to score.

Despite cutting the lead to 2-1, that was the only time the Panthers would score over the entire game. Falling to WKU, their season came to a close in the first round of the CUSA Championship tournament.

While their season ended early into the playoffs, they still stood out in terms of both individual and team statistics.

Sophomore pitcher/first baseman Ella Whitney finished the season with a .349-batting average, which was the highest on the team. She also led the team in on-base slugging percentage with a .905 and accumulated four home runs.

Besides Whitney, sophomore catcher Isabella Perez provided FIU with a steady hand at the plate and held a .331-batting average. Despite hitting no home runs, she finished with 21-runs on the season, which was the second most on the team.

Working to improve going into 2024, the Panthers are opening up their season by hosting three teams at the Felsberg Invitational.

A fresh start:

Alongside FIU, the Felsberg Invitational consists of four total teams, including the Southeast Missouri Redhawks, Ohio State Buckeyes and Stony Brook Seawolves. The teams will participate in five games over three total days.

Playing their first two games on the same day, the Panthers begin their season against the Redhawks. Their next two games are against OSU and Stony Brook respectively, with the team’s records deciding the final two games.

Coming into this season, FIU built upon the foundation of the team they already had during the off-season. Including Whitney and Perez, they have seven starters returning for the 2024 campaign.

With many familiar faces, there’s also a plethora of new talent on the roster, as they added seven new players. 

Graduate student utility player Casey Goguts headlined the Panthers’ off-season acquisitions, as she brings both skill and experience. She spent the 2023 season with the USC Trojans and finished with a .381-batting average.

Looking to carry over her consistency, Goguts also has earned expectations in her short time with the school. Perez, Whitney and Goguts were all named to the CUSA Preseason All-Conference Team on Jan. 25, 2024.

Getting into the swing of a new season, the FIU softball team is playing their first game against the Southeast Missouri Redhawks on Friday Feb. 9, 2024 in Miami, Florida.

First pitch is set for 12:30 p.m. at the FIU Softball Field and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.

Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40

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