FGCU Softball team sharpens skills in advance of Friday’s World Series regional game vs. Gators – WGCU

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The Florida Gulf Coast University softball team sharpened skills this week in anticipation of the Eagles’ regional World Series game Friday against the fourth-ranked University of Florida Gators.

That game is scheduled at noon in Gainesville.

The regional round of the NCAA softball tournament is double elimination. FGCU opens the regional against the Gators and will play either the University of South Alabama or Florida Atlantic University on Saturday, depending on the results of the games.

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FGCU softball team reacts to winning ASUN Championship and prepares for College World Series

Eagles coach David Deiros said the team’s plan from Day One was plotted out — win-it-all.

“Since the very first day of practice, we had this vision that we were going to be champions. We’ve really talked about it, planned for it all year long. Somewhere in the last month and a half, it was very obvious that they believed that they were going to be champions, and that’s the big sell,” he said. “Once they figure out that they are that good, then, you know, any game is winnable. Any problem is conquerable. So that was the big deal for us. They had to believe it wasn’t our coaching staff. It was our players that really started to believe, and it made a difference in the way we played.”

The last time the Eagles softball team won a conference title was in 2012.

“We were conference champions in 2008, 12, and 16. But the NCAA regional bid is, for our conference, is really dependent on who wins the tournament. We’ve been close. But this is the first time since 2012 that we were able to break through,” he said. “I’m really proud of our players to be able to experience this, because going to regionals, it’s a big deal, and it’s a different animal than what you’re used to in the regular season.”

The Eagles are riding a five-game winning streak, including four in the ASUN tournament to earn the automatic bid. The Green and Blue beat the University of North Alabama, Eastern Kentucky University, and the University of North Florida twice to secure the ASUN Championship. Neely Peterson was named the ASUN Tournament MVP.

For Peterson, that moment after she hit the walk-off homer was nearly surreal.

“We were really just taking it pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning, just kind of fighting through the whole game. You know, we knew what we wanted, that championship was ours and just having the chance to get up to bat there in the eighth inning, and I saw a good pitch and I hit it. And it’s just what dreams are made up honestly,” she said.

Rounding the bases, Peterson said it felt like she was out of the moment.

“I feel like I really blacked out. I tried to remember and I can’t. I was screaming so loud, I don’t even think I took a single breath in, you know, from home-to-home,” she said. “But I was just really, really excited to get to home plate and celebrate with my team.”

Amanda Inscore Whittamore

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WGCU

The FGCU softball team brought home the ASUN Championship trophy after a walk-off home run on Saturday, May 11, 2024. They face the University of Florida in the College World Series on Friday, May 17.

Four Eagles were named to the All-ASUN Tournament team in addition to Peterson — Allison Sparkman, Angelina Bonilla, Tiffany Meek, and Riley Oakes.

Sparkman, a freshman and the title game’s winning pitcher, was in her element and looks forward to continuing the wins.

“Everything that I’ve done working, leading up to this point has really showed, and I just love those big moments. I love being in those high-pressure moments. I feel like I performed my best,” she said. “It was really fun to be able to be in that game with my seniors, especially Neely being behind the play, being a senior and just working together, because to give her more softball to plate, and I just I know, they’re not done yet. And it was fun to be able to get that for them.”

Florida is the SEC champion, FAU is the AAC regular season champion, and USA finished third in the Sun Belt while being ranked 31st in RPI. FGCU has already played two teams in this regional. The Eagles played the Owls at the FAU tournament and lost 3-1. Florida came to Fort Myers and won 9-0 in five innings.

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