FAU Softball: Owls set to open 2023 season against Mississippi State

They will begin their last season in Conference USA on Thursday night, being led by new head coach Jordan Clark.


Ryan Lynch

University Press stock photo of FAU’s softball team.

Cameron Priester, Sports Editor

After a season of triumph and tragedy in 2022, FAU Softball is looking to turn a new leaf as they begin a new campaign this week. On Thursday, the Owls will begin their 2023 season against the Mississippi State University Bulldogs at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla. 

At the helm for FAU will be new head coach Jordan Clark, who was hired last June after spending four years as an assistant at Ohio State University.

The job became available in the wake of former head coach, the legendary Joan Joyce’s passing midway through last season. In the midst of her 28th season as head coach, eight days after earning her 1000th career win, Joyce passed away at the age of 81. 

Despite losing the architect of the program, and a softball icon, the season trudged on for the Owls. With then-assistant Chan Walker as interim head coach, FAU went on to finish with a winning record of 29-26, eventually falling in the Conference USA Tournament after losses to Marshall University and Western Kentucky University. 

A month later, on June 24, 2023, FAU announced the hiring of Clark.

She mentioned that the job first caught her attention during her trip to play FAU while at Ohio State. 

“We thought it was the coolest place from the time we got off the airplane,” said Clark. “It kind of sparked my interest, and I was like ‘You know, I never thought of would I want to be there?’”

Clark will be in uncharted waters as a first-time head coach. She will, however, have the help of multiple veterans in the dugout in Sara Berthiaume and Lynn Gardner—both of whom earned preseason All-C-USA Honors. 

Berthiaume, a senior outfielder from Coconut Creek, Fla., earned first-team All-C-USA Honors last season after leading the Owls in nearly every major batting statistic: batting average, (.384), RBI (34), slugging percentage (.604%), and on-base percentage (.429%).

Meanwhile, Gardner, graduate pitcher from Mobile, Ala., made her presence felt from the mound. As the Owls’ ace in 2022, she led the team in nearly every pitching statistic including ERA (2.73), strikeouts (123), and wins (18).

Berthiaume and Gardner will be leading the Owls’ through a regular season schedule that features several qualifiers from last year’s NCAA Tournament. One of which they will face on Opening Day, Mississippi State University, who advanced to the Super Regional Round last season before falling to the University of Arizona. 

After kicking off the season against the Bulldogs on Thursday, the Owls’ first road trip will be to Fort Myers to take on the Lipscomb University Bisons in the FGCU Invitational. 

From Feb. 23-26, they’ll continue their non-conference schedule by playing host to the University of  Wisconsin, Boston College, the University of North Carolina, and Villanova University for the Joan Joyce Classic—both Wisconsin and Villanova were regional qualifiers in last year’s NCAA Tournament. 

FAU will face off twice with the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies, who also appeared in the regional round last year, on March 2 and 4, before ending non-conference play with a double header against Stonehill College. 

The Owls’ will open their conference schedule with a three-game series on the road against the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers beginning on March 10. 

Their annual meetup with rival Florida International University Panthers will come at home this season in a three-game series starting on April 6. 

Though FAU holds the edge in the all-time record between the two programs, the rivalry has been split in recent years. The Panthers took the season-series in 2021 by a record of 2-3, however, in 2022 the Owls won two of their three matchups.

FAU will end their regular season schedule with a pair of three-game series with conference opponents; first against the University of North Texas Mean Green from April 28-30, before ending the season on the road against the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners from May 5-7. 

The 2023 C-USA Conference Championship Tournament will take place from May 10 through May 13 in Ruston, La. where the Owls will be looking to win their first conference title since 2018. 

“This is a program that has had so much success in the past,” said Clark. “You look at the 2016 and 2018 team, why can’t we get it back to that. For it to be my first head coaching opportunity, I feel like this could be something really special.”

The Owls’ Opening Day matchup against Mississippi State will take place on Thursday, Feb. 9, in the FAU Softball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m and will be broadcast on C-USA TV. 

Cameron Priester is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @PriesterCameron