Softball: Strong arms help Owls sweep weekend tournament

Team opens season with five straight wins

Senior+outfielder+Christina+Martinez+comes+in+to+score+as+the+Owls%E2%80%99+second+run+of+the+game+in+the+bottom+of+the+third+to+give+them+a+2-0+lead.+Ryan+Lynch+%7C+Multimedia+Editor
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Softball: Strong arms help Owls sweep weekend tournament

Senior outfielder Christina Martinez comes in to score as the Owls’ second run of the game in the bottom of the third to give them a 2-0 lead. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Senior outfielder Christina Martinez comes in to score as the Owls’ second run of the game in the bottom of the third to give them a 2-0 lead. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Senior outfielder Christina Martinez comes in to score as the Owls’ second run of the game in the bottom of the third to give them a 2-0 lead. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Senior outfielder Christina Martinez comes in to score as the Owls’ second run of the game in the bottom of the third to give them a 2-0 lead. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

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Pitching paved the way for Florida Atlantic softball as the team opened up its season with five straight wins over the weekend — its best start since the 2002 season.

“I said [before the season started] the reason that we were picked No. 1 in the conference, I feel, is because of our pitching staff,” head coach Joan Joyce said.

That staff — led by junior Kylee Hanson — gave up a total of three earned runs and 18 hits over 35 innings of play against the likes of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Hofstra, Wright State, Tulsa and Penn State.

Hanson — who threw a no-hitter Saturday night against Tulsa — pitched in four games for the Owls (5-0), recording two wins, one save and 27 strikeouts over 18 innings. She hasn’t allowed a hit in her last 11 innings.

“Kylee’s going to be a horse for me,” Joyce said. “She’s going to help us a lot this season. And she wants to be that person.”

Junior Amanda Wilson and sophomore Tatum Buckley started the other three games for the Owls. Buckley gave up one unearned run over five and two-third innings, collecting the win over Wright State.

Wilson started the Owls’ first game of the weekend against SIUE and closed out the weekend against Penn State. She followed Friday’s eight strikeout, shutout performance with only four innings of work on Sunday, where she gave up two earned runs.

“The whole team did well, it was their first night out and you get rid of the jitters,” Joyce said after Friday’s doubleheader. “I feel like we will be better once we get a couple games under our belt.”

Here’s a recap of each game:

Game One: FAU 7, SIUE 0,

Junior pitcher Kylee Hanson performs a handshake with freshman first baseman Lauren Whitt before the start of Sunday’s game versus Penn State. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Junior pitcher Kylee Hanson performs a handshake with freshman first baseman Lauren Whitt before the start of Sunday’s game versus Penn State. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

In the first game of the season, Wilson shut out the Cougars on the way to a 7-0 Owls’ victory Friday.

FAU scored its first run of the season in the second inning in controversial fashion.

The bases were loaded when Owls’ freshman Lauren Whitt hit a groundball to third base. SIUE sophomore third baseman Haley Adrian threw the ball to home, but the umpire ruled the catcher never touched home plate, so Buckley — the runner on third base — was called safe at home.

The team would go on to score two more runs in the inning, gaining a 3-0 lead.

Sophomore shortstop Emily Lochten hit the Owls’ first homerun of the season in the following inning to stretch the lead to four.

“Emily did a great job at short,” Joyce said. “She hit a home run, which is great, and I mean she’s going to do better, but I thought she did very well.”

Senior outfielder Christina Martinez went 4-for-4 in the game with two RBIs.

The Cougars were only able to put a runner on third base two times during the game.

Game Two: Hofstra 1, FAU 6

Head coach Joan Joyce argues with an umpire about a call made in the second inning. Joyce had raised suspicion that sophomore shortstop Emily Lochten was not tagged after she had Penn State junior third baseman Shelby Miller topple over her in a rundown. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Head coach Joan Joyce argues with an umpire about a call made in the second inning. Joyce had raised suspicion that sophomore shortstop Emily Lochten was not tagged after Penn State junior third baseman Shelby Miller toppled over her in a rundown. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Hanson — Conference USA’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year — took the mound for the second game of Friday night’s doubleheader. Despite giving up the Owls’ first run of the season, she proved her worth by striking out 14 of the 26 batters she faced.

“We always know what Hofstra is,” Joyce said. “Just a tough game every single time we go on the field, it’s war. And it was a war.”

The offense helped Hanson feel comfortable on the mound, as senior Carnesha Thompson, Lochten and senior Melissa Martinez strung together three consecutive two-out singles to help the Owls score first.

Freshman Madisyn Palmer stole second base and immediately advanced to third after a throwing error. She scored — three batters later — after a Thompson hit into a fielder’s choice.

Thompson extended the lead to 3-0 in the fifth inning with her first home run of the season. She was followed by Melissa Martinez, who hit a home run to center field the following inning.

Game Three: FAU 4, Wright State 1

Junior rightfielder Delaney Rickey runs out a grounder to first base in the bottom of the first. Rickey had one hit during the game. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Junior rightfielder Delaney Rickey runs out a grounder to first base in the bottom of the first. Rickey had one hit during the game. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

The third game of the Owls’ season was held scoreless through the first three innings until Thompson led off the fourth inning with a single and a stolen base. She scored when the following batter, Lochten, doubled to left-center.

Melissa Martinez followed Lochten’s lead with her own double to give FAU a 2-0 lead.

Buckley was charged with an unearned run in the sixth inning before Hanson was called in to finish the game. She was given help in the bottom half of the inning when Christina Martinez knocked in junior Delaney Rickey with a triple.

Martinez then scored after a Lochten single, stretching the FAU lead to 4-1, where it would stay for the rest of the game.

Buckley earned her first win of the season and Hanson netted her first save.

Game Four: Tulsa 0, FAU 1

Delaney Rickey is tagged out by Penn State senior shortstop Reina Furuya after trying to stretch a single into a double in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Delaney Rickey is tagged out by Penn State senior shortstop Reina Furuya after trying to stretch a single into a double in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Already warm from closing the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Hanson didn’t need much help in her second start.

She struck out six batters en route to her second career no-hitter. Despite not walking a batter, an error allowed a baserunner, which prevented her from having a perfect game.

Joyce said, “The thing that impressed me about Kylee this weekend was that last year

in the second games, Kylee was not as effective as she was the first day out. And her second day out this year, she ended up throwing a no-hitter.”

The game’s lone run occurred in the second inning after Buckley reached base on an error. Palmer, who pinch ran for Buckey, scored when junior Sarah Bencivenga’s attempted sacrifice bunt caused a Tulsa throwing error.

Game Five: Penn State 2, FAU 4

Penn State players celebrate after the second of two runs came in to score in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game at two. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Penn State players celebrate after the second of two runs comes in to score in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game at two. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Wilson took the rubber for the fifth and final game of the weekend.

However, she didn’t have the same success as she did in her opening night start as she was taken out of the game after four innings. She allowed two runs in her outing but was still able to help her team collect the win.

Hanson relieved Wilson for her fourth appearance in five games. She stifled the Nittany Lions’ offense, striking out four batters while shutting them out for the final three innings.

With one out and runners on second and third in a scoreless third inning, Thompson hit a slow grounder to the Penn State pitching mound. Freshman pitcher Madison Seifert checked Palmer back to third base and threw to first to record the out.

On Seifert’s throw to first base, Palmer broke for home, causing an errant throw home by Penn State’s junior first baseman Kristina Brackpool. Palmer scored and the throw allowed Christina Martinez to score from second base, helping FAU jump out to a 2-0 lead.

After Penn State answered with two runs for themselves in the next half inning, the Owls followed up with a run of their own when Whitt knocked in Melissa Martinez with a single.

The three runs were all Hanson would need, but the Owls added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning and collected their fifth consecutive win to start the season.

FAU will host Northern Illinois, Connecticut and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University next weekend when it hosts the Strike Out Cancer Tournament starting Feb. 19.

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. To contact him on this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.