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UCF Softball Sweeps the Doubleheader on Opening Knight

Updated: Feb 13

By Nick Williams

At a packed UCF Softball Complex the Knights were able to run-rule their first game against the Howard Bison 10-2 ending the game early in the 5th inning. This was the first time in history these schools matched up on the softball field.

Senior Chloe Evans led the charge this game being the only Knight to score a home run. With 2 at-bats she scored 2 runs and an amazing 4 RBI’s. The first inning was a tremendous one for the Knights as they held the Bison to 0 runs, 0 hits, and obtained 0 errors all while the offense scored 3 runs. Jada Cody scored her first run of the season off an Ashleigh Griffin RBI which perfectly set up Kennedy Searcy to hit a ground ball to center field and advance 2 runners to home plate. The Knights ended the 1st inning with a Jasmine Williams pop fly out to center field and a comfortable 3-0 lead going into the 2nd.

The 2nd inning against the Bison started off unfortunate as RHP Sona Halajian hit her first batter at the plate and was visibly upset with herself after coming off such a hot inning. Halajian then proceeded to walk her second batter of the inning which resulted in Head Coach Ball-Malone approaching her at the mound. After discussing Halajian’s troubles at the mound she took a deep breath and then gave up a single to the Bison.

With no outs the Bison suddenly had bases loaded. Justine Lambert, shortstop for the Bison, created one of the very few notable plays for Howard as she hit a single and brought in a runner all while leaving the bases loaded once more. The score then stood at 3-1 with UCF still holding the lead.The lead became uncomfortable as another single was hit and yet again another Bison advanced home.

This run however was controversial and created an onslaught of upset UCF fans at the complex. Jada Cody threw to home plate on bases loaded to prevent another run, however the umpire behind the plate ruled the run safe after claiming catcher Ashleigh Griffin’s foot was off the plate. After scoring 2 runs at the top of the 2nd, Head Coach Ball-Malone subbed out Sona Halajian and sent LHP Angelia DeVoe to the mound.

DeVoe picked up where 1st inning Hanajian did, quickly racking up outs. During DeVoe’s first inning, first baseman Shannon Doherty had a linedrive sent straight to her resulting in an amazing snag and brought the out count to 2. The bottom of the second started off nicely as an error by the Bison pitcher brought in a Knight at first. The scoring for the Knights then continued as Shannon Doherty hit an RBI single which gave the Knights a 4-2 lead. Chloe Evans figured she’d get in on the action as she hit a 2 run home run into deep center field.

The crowd was off their feet cheering her into home plate as Evans scored her first homerun of the season and gave the Knights a 6-2 lead. With a Griffin ground out the Knights went into the top of the 3rd and put up an impressive 3 up and 3 down stand against the Bison. Bottom of the 3rd arrived and the bats were not swinging, despite getting air under the ball, all three hits resulted in outs and the Knights entered the 4th inning.

The 4th was no different than the 3rd for the Bison as they went scoreless once again and Ball-Malone’s decision to put DeVoe on the mound looked to be great game management. Bottom of the 4th put the Knights offense to the test and they passed with flying colors as the bases were loaded and Chloe Evans walked up to the plate. After scoring a homerun the last inning, Evans took the plate and hit a dinger to center field. Stat keepers got to add an RBI double for her statsheet and the Knights took a 7-2 lead. Offense did not let up as they scored 2 more runs to end the 4th inning 9-2.

After shutting down the Bison once more, the bottom of the 5th arrived and with one more run the Knights would run-rule Howard and send them back to their charter bus. Second baseman Aubrey Evans took the plate and waited for her pitch. Her pitch is exactly what she got as she won the game for the Knights off of a RBI double. UCF beating Howard 10-2 accounted for UCF’s first run-rule game of the season, first win of the season and the first 2024 Black and Gold Classic win. The Knights also stole a total of 7 bases against Howard which had not been done for the Knights since March 16th against Stetson University.

The doubleheader continued with UCF playing against the UConn Huskies who had previously lost to Howard 3-2 earlier on Thursday afternoon. This game resulted in yet again another run-rule win as the Knights beat UConn 10-2 and added a 23rd win to their all-time record against the Huskies.

RHP Sarah Willis took the field in the 1st inning and immediately marked up a strikeout against UConn’s Haley Coupal. Despite looking solid and keeping composure, Willis gave up one run to the Huskies in the 1st which turned out to be their only run of the game.

The 2nd inning came quick as the Knights went scoreless in the bottom of the 1st.

The top of the 2nd inning looked worrisome for Knights fans as UConn was able to load the bases with 2 outs. Sarah Willis unleashed her inner superhero and saved the day as she struck out UConn’s batter leaving 3 on base and ended the top of the 2nd with no runs. Willis was built for moments like these and had the UCF home crowd on their feet cheering. The momentum came to a halt once again as UCF went scoreless in the 2nd inning and entered the 3rd down by 1 run.

The entirety of the 3rd inning was strictly defense as both the Huskies and Knights struggled to make anything happen which resulted in a scoreless 3rd inning for both teams. The struggles continued for UConn in the top of the 4th as Sarah Willis had an unstoppable arm and once again allowed 0 runs.

Bottom of the 4th had Chloe Evans name written all over it as she hit an RBI triple to tie the game 1-1 and later ran into home from Stormy Kotzelnick’s RBI single to make the game 2-1. The offense continued to shine in the bottom of the 4th as Kennedy Searcy hit a 2 run homerun to put the Knights up 4-1. Searcy became the second Knight of the season to score a homerun.

With 4 runs scored in the bottom of the 4th inning the Knights regained the ultimate momentum going into the 5th. Sarah Willis was subbed out with 2 outs and replaced by reliever Grace Jewell. Willis’ final line was 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 7 K.

Willis looked to have been just as volatile as she was in her 2023 season. Jewell gave instant relief as she struckout her first batter and ushered the UCF offense onto the field. At the bottom of the 5th inning, Jada Cody launched a missile into left field scoring her first homerun of the season and tying for 2nd all time in career home runs with 33. Cody has quite a bit to catch up to 1st place record holder Stephanie Best’s 71 career home runs but with her next she will cement herself as 2nd all-time, passing Jania Shinholster’s record of 33.

Cody’s homerun was only the spark to UCF’s hitting flames as the score promptly rose to 6-1 Knights. Searcy who was on fire in both of these games had a 2 run single which meant 1 more run would win the game. After a long day of softball the Knights were ready to send UConn back to their hotel as Jada Cody won the game off an RBI and the Knights started the season 2-0 with both wins being run-ruled.

The Knights will continue play in the Black & Gold Classic matching up against the Seattle Redhawks with a scheduled 6 p.m first pitch on Friday evening. Knights vs Redhawks will be

streamed on ESPN+. Make sure to follow UCF softball on all socials to keep up with their inaugural Big 12 year!

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