In the Circle

Feb. 14, 2007

The UCF softball team kicked off its 2007 season in February with a combination that could pose issues for opposing offenses. Starting pitchers Allison Kime and Ashleigh Cole are the top two ingredients for success in the circle and both are relatively new to the UCF program.

Cole came to UCF from Pace High School where she was a four-time Pensacola News Journal first-team all-area honoree. She also was named to the Florida 5A all-state first team twice and the second team as a freshman and a sophomore. Cole helped lead her team to the state final four on two occasions and finished her high school pitching career with 719 strikeouts and a 0.44 ERA.

Prior to UCF, Kime played at Hillsborough Community College for one year. At Hillsborough she was named a First Team All-American and selected to the National Junior College Athletic Association's Gulf Coast District First Team, while also being named Florida Community College Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year.

"There is a big difference between junior college and UCF softball," Kime said. "The competition is different for one thing and at junior college we didn't get to travel out of the state of Florida so it's been exciting to see the different areas that we get to play in. I have loved both experiences."

As a Golden Knight, Kime was the No. 1 pitcher in 2006 with 31 starts in 39 appearances in the circle. She was named Conference USA Pitcher of the Week on two occasions and broke the UCF single-season record for strikeouts with 222.

The Golden Knights trained hard during the off-season with numerous practices that included frequent conditioning drills and weightlifting. With the rigorous schedule of play in 2007, the coaches wanted the girls to be well prepared.

"During the off-season we all worked really hard," Kime said. "I am in a lot better shape now then I was last year."

Along with the grueling workout routine, the practices for the pitchers are altered slightly from the rest of the team. Their practices involve an hour of pitching, about and hour of hitting, some fielding and weightlifting.

"We have our own thing that we have to do," Kime said. "Sometimes we get there a little bit early so we can get in more hitting because when we pitch we only have a certain amount of time and sometimes that takes up our hitting practice."

UCF's practices have been very challenging for the players but the girls have some bigger challenges that they are going to face throughout the season.

"My main challenge is trying to stay healthy this season," Kime said. "Last season I had some wrist problems, so I'm really trying to keep my wrist strong and keep from getting injured."

"My main challenge as a freshman is to get my teammates to have total confidence in me," Cole stated. "Being a new player I haven't been around long enough to build up a lot of trust, so hopefully throughout the season they will have total confidence in the way I play and I can build up my own confidence as well."

Despite the obstacles of the season the girls started off on a high note as they each recorded a shutout at the FAU Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla., in February. UCF recorded two 2-0 wins at the tournament with victories over North Florida and Pittsburgh.

"It was a good feeling," Cole said. "But I would give a lot of the credit to the defense, they played really well and they had my back throughout the game."

The rest of the 2007 season is filled with exciting events as the Golden Knights are hosting the Conference USA Championships in May.

"We are thrilled to be hosting the Conference USA Championships," said head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie. "Being able to host the conference tournament is going to be huge. But we have to put ourselves in a good position to make it there. That is the drawing point of the entire season."

The fact that the conference championships as well as the rest of the home games, will be played on the brand new softball field is a thrilling factor to Cole and Kime.

"The new facility is amazing," Kime said. "We are so privileged to have such a great place to play at. Every time I walk into the stadium I feel like we are a Triple-A team. It's so nice. I've never played at a facility like this before."

With the new facility and the challenge of making it to the C-USA championships the girls both agreed on their main goal of the season...winning.

"I want to try and do my best this year and win as many games as possible," Cole said.

With this goal in mind the girls are working harder than ever to pitch their way to a successful 2007 season.