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Softball: Conference USA Tournament preview

The Owls earned the top seed after recording the smallest number of losses in program history.

Junior pitcher Amanda Wilson pitches against Western Kentucky University in an 8-3 victory on April 30. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor

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lorida Atlantic softball (47-7) finished its season with the fewest number of losses in program history, earning the team the top seed and an automatic two-round bye into the second day of the Conference USA Tournament, which began on Wednesday, May 11.

The Owls will play their first game at 2 p.m. against Louisiana Tech University, which defeated Marshall University in the tournament’s first day to reach FAU.

Louisiana Tech arguably caused more trouble for FAU this season than any other team in the conference. The Lady Techsters are responsible for one of the Owls two inter-conference losses and took a second game into extra innings.

With only two conference losses all season, the double-elimination format makes the Owls strong favorites to take home the championship.

The key factor that will lead FAU’s journey to the title is its pitching staff. Kylee Hanson

(.64) and junior pitcher Amanda Wilson (1.68) sit at first and second respectively in the conference’s ERA leaders. Sophomore pitcher Tatum Buckley’s ERA of 1.58 would be the second best in the conference, but she finished six innings away from officially qualifying for the statistic.

The team’s overall ERA (1.09) is the second lowest in the nation. It’s also almost two runs fewer per game than Charlotte’s 2.92 ERA, the second best pitching staff in the conference.

The offensive side of the plate will be led by sophomore shortstop Emily Lochten and senior second baseman Melissa Martinez. Lochten finished the season tied for the most home runs (13) and the sixth highest batting average (.366) in Conference USA.

Martinez is currently swinging the hottest bat in the conference.

Two weeks ago she was named National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s National Player of the Week and also earned Conference USA’s Player of the Week this past week. In those final six games, Martinez hit 12-for-20 with 15 RBIs and four runs scored; she also hit two home runs on May 7.

Conference USA’s coaches picked FAU to win the league in the preseason poll, and now the Owls are only three days away from their opportunity to prove those coaches right.

The championship game will be played on Saturday, May 14, at noon. Here is the bracket for the tournament.

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email brendanrfeeney@gmail.com or tweet him @feeney42.

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