Rough start for rebuilt Eagle team

Hayden Boudreaux

Georgia Southern softball began this weekend as the Lady Eagles traveled to Tallahassee to take on Florida State and Kentucky to set the bar for their season. After a long weekend of growth, they were defeated in all four games by a combined score of 31-0.

It is always hard to rebound after losing a lot of key players. As far as what GS lost, it was one of the best pitchers in college softball with Sarah Purvis. Purvis pitched for three perfect games in her career and went down as one of the best in Statesboro history. They also graduated some of their best hitters and fielders including their home run leader from last season.

This season will be an interesting year to rebuild as the expectation for the Lady Eagles are mixed. Preseason polls placed GS at fifth in the Sun Belt and named sophomore outfielder Taylor Rodgers as the Preseason All-Sun Belt team member. Rodgers was the leadoff hitter most of last season and held a .381 average to be named not only to the All Southern Conference team but also the title of Conference Freshman of the Year.

Rodgers and the rest of the team loaded up for the long road to Florida to take part in the Florida State Softball Tournament. The action began early on Saturday as the Eagles faced the Florida State at 10 a.m. The Seminoles were ranked as the fifth best team in the country, so the Lady Eagles knew they were in for a fight. Senior pitcher Brooke Red has seen a lot of time through her career and backed up Purvis all of last season. Though it was the first game of the season, their opponents played in midseason form. Rodgers was not able to get a hit off, in fact, her team only accounted for one hit through six innings. Red also had her struggles as her team fell far behind in the sixth and lost 8-0.

Shell-shocked after the first performance, the Lady Eagles wanted to turn things around, but they faced the sixth ranked team in the country, the Kentucky Wildcats. Georgia Southern went with freshman pitcher Kierra Camp against the powerhouse. The freshman was faced with some of the best batters in the sport for her first collegiate matchup and managed to strike out three Wildcats.

She was pulled in the fifth inning and replaced with senior Marla Thompson who also saw time on the mound last year. Unfortunately, she faced some of the tougher batters and allowed four runs. Things on the batting side didn’t look much better with the Lady Eagles only getting one hit from courtesy of senior Savannah Coon. The Wildcats ended the first day of the softball season with a 9-0 victory.

It would have been hard for most teams to wake up Sunday knowing what they went through the previous day awaited them yet again. First up was Kentucky, and Red took the mound for her team once again. Things were decidedly better in the second matchup, with only two runs allowed in the first four innings. Red picked up three strikeouts and Rodgers along with senior Lexi Allen were both able to register hits. Despite the strong start, Red had to be pulled in the fifth after allowing three runs and was replaced by Camp. The Wildcats piled on in the remainder of the fifth and sixth inning and walked away with a 10-0 win.

After a hard weekend it was time for a break. A new pitcher stepped up to the mound and gave her best to provide some relief for her Eagle teammates. Freshman pitcher Heather Felt took the mound in her first collegiate match and raised some eyebrows. It was a rough start after she watched a grand slam sail over her head in the first inning. But, she was determined to rebound and she did just that. Felt did not allow another run for her next four innings and only allowed four hits. The bad news for the Eagles was their failure to register a single hit through all seven innings. Red came in to relieve Felt in the sixth after walking two batters and the Seminoles defended their turf with a 4-0 win.

All things considered this was the best thing for the team and head coach Annie Smith undoubtedly knew it was the best way to get her team ready. By showing the team the level they should expect to play at, it allows them to feel more comfortable and dominant over the smaller teams. Smith got a chance to see her pitchers perform and was even able to work in the freshmen Camp and Felt giving them a taste of the big stage.

The Lady Eagles will get a chance to flex their muscle in this weekend’s Eagle Round Robin Tournament. On the list of opponents is Binghamton College, Campbell, Boston College and Tennessee Tech. It will be an excellent opportunity to build confidence for the team but to challenge themselves with a traditional division I program with Boston College. The first pitch is scheduled for the Friday at 4 p.m. on Eagle Field.