FORT MYERS, FLA. - Down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, the No. 2 USC Upstate Spartans rallied to plate five runs on RBIs from Abbie Millete, Amy Szymanowski, Karla Beasley and Kori Wancheck, in turn capturing the 2016 ASUN Softball Championship title. Szymanowski earned Tournament MVP honors while Millete, Lexi Shubert and Holly McKinnon joined her as All-Tournament selections from Upstate.
The first five innings between No. 1 FGCU and USC Upstate was riddled with tension, as both teams were able to produce base runners multiple times, but neither could advance them past second base. Freshman and Pitcher of the Year Riley Randolph got the starting nod in the circle for the Eagles, while junior and 2015 ASUN Pitcher of the Year Lexi Shubert was tabbed the go-to player for the Spartans.
Holly McKinnon came in to pitch the top of the sixth for USC Upstate, relieving Shubert. Just one day after McKinnon no-hit the Eagles, FGCU was able to fix that streak early as leadoff hitter Makensie McAvoy singled to center field to begin the inning. Louie Ross then doubled down the left field line, scoring pinch runner Carissa LiCata and giving the Green and Blue the 1-0 advantage. Fournet then flew out to right field, advancing Ross to third, and Coach Chris Hawkins reinserted Shubert who after walking Michaela Hynes and hitting Bri Innamorato escaped the bases loaded jam with a strike out and a foul out, keeping the Spartans within striking distance.
Strike they would, as directly following FGCU's run in the top of the sixth Ansley Gilstrap would leadoff the bottom half of the frame with an infield single, just barely beating the force at first. First Team All-Conference member Megan Obier would then lay down a bunt, thrown out of play by FGCU which led to Gilstrap heading to third and Obier at second with no outs. After a Ryan Rector fly out, Abbie Millete dropped a ball into left field that landed directly on the line in fair territory to send home Gilstrap and tie the game.
The Spartans were far from done after that, as Szymanowski would come to the plate and double to center field after a seven-pitch at-bat scoring Obier and giving USC Upstate the 2-1 lead. Brittany Case would pop up to third base, and the Eagles would go to Gabbee Draney in the circle in relief of Randolph. The sophomore would then throw a wild pitch, scoring Millete, before Karla Beasley added a double of her own to score Szymanowski. The final run of the inning would come off the bat of Kori Wancheck who blasted a shot off the glove of Jeanie Verderese, driving home pinch runner Lindsay O'Steen.
Shubert would head to the circle for the final time in the top of the seventh looking to close out the championship for the Spartans, and despite allowing singles from Kelsey Huff and Ross, the junior struck out the final batter which sealed the 5-1 Spartan victory.
USC Upstate will advance to play in its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Selection Show will air at 10 p.m. EST on ESPNU Sunday, May 14.
Other members of the ASUN Softball Championship All-Tournament Team were FGCU's McAvoy, Ross and Taylor Wade, Kennesaw State's Logan Viers and Taylor Denton, Stetson's Tori Perkins and Jacksonville's Heather Roberts.
FGCU vs. USC Upstate Softball Championship Notes
- The Spartans are now 3-1 all-time when advancing to the final day of the ASUN Softball Championship. This marks Coach Hawkins' third championship title.
- After beginning the season picked to finish in a tie for sixth, FGCU ends the year with a record of 32-27 earning postseason superlatives for Louie Ross, Riley Randolph and Head Coach David Deiros.
- Seven of USC Upstate's nine players in its starting lineup recorded at least one hit against FGCU for a total of eight on the day. The Spartans had only recorded 10 total hits in 13.2 innings against Randolph prior to Saturday's contest.
- Shubert earns her ninth win on the season going 6.2 innings for the Spartans.
- In a tournament dominated by strong pitching performances, Millete finished 3-for-9 at the plate, earning a hit in each contest for USC Upstate.
- Amy Szymanowski, USC Upstate - MVP
- Holly McKinnon, USC Upstate
- Lexi Shubert, USC Upstate
- Abbie Millete, USC Upstate
- Louie Ross, FGCU
- Taylor Wade, FGCU
- Makensie McAvoy, FGCU
- Logan Viers, Kennesaw State
- Taylor Denton, Kennesaw State
- Tori Perkins, Stetson
- Heather Roberts, Jacksonville