UCF Softball Opens 2009 Season Friday at the Kajikawa Classic

Feb. 5, 2009

ASU Kajikawa Classic Game Notes

Complete ASU Kajikawa Classic Schedule
Keep up with the Knights in Arizona at 'The Hot Corner' blog!

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The 2009 softball season has finally arrived. After weeks of hard work and preparation, the UCF softball team will kick-off its season Friday afternoon at the Arizona State Kajikawa Classic. The Knights will open the tournament against Texas Tech at 1 p.m. ET, before facing defending national champion No. 2 Arizona State in the nightcap at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Saturday's slate matches UCF with Oklahoma State at 3:30 p.m. ET and Western Michigan at 6 p.m. ET, while the Black and Gold's tournament finale will pit the Knights against No. 11 Stanford at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

? Schedule
Friday, Feb. 6
1:00 p.m. ET vs. Texas Tech
7:30 p.m. ET at No. 2 Arizona State
Saturday, Feb. 7
3:30 p.m. vs. Oklahoma State
6:00 p.m. vs. Western Michigan
Sunday, Feb. 8
1:00 p.m. vs. No. 11 Stanford

? Series
UCF leads Texas Tech, 2-0
First meeting vs. Arizona State
UCF leads Oklahoma State, 1-0
Western Michigan leads UCF, 1-0
First meeting vs. Stanford

? Live Stats
UCFAthletics.com (Gametracker)

? The UCF softball team enters its opening weekend receiving eight votes in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Preseason Coaches Poll after garnering a program-record 26 votes in the final poll of the 2008 season.

? The Knights will face five teams in the Kajikawa Classic, including a pair of ranked opponents and one opponent receiving votes in the poll. UCF will square off with No. 2 Arizona State on Friday and Oklahoma State on Saturday, before closing the event with a contest against No. 11 Stanford on Sunday. The Black and Gold will be meeting both the Sun Devils and the Cardinal for the first time at the tournament.

? Renee Luers-Gillispie enters her eighth season at the helm of the UCF softball program. The skipper opens the weekend with 278 wins at UCF under her belt, only 22 victories shy of 300.

? The Knights are 4-3 all-time in season openers since the program's inception in 2002. Last year, the Black and Gold ushered in the new season with a 5-0 blanking of Illinois State at the UCF Softball Complex. The Knights are 4-3 in tournament season-openers and are 3-1 when opening the season on the road.

? The Black and Gold returns six starters from 2008, a season in which it won a program-record 49 games and won the Conference USA Championship.

? Renee Luers-Gillispie restarted the Texas Tech softball program back in 1996, laying the foundation for the Red Raiders that will face the Knights on Friday in UCF's season opener.

With the 2009 season-opener upon us, the UCF softball team is already making noise at the national level, receiving eight votes in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Preseason Coaches Poll released in January. The NFCA Poll Committee, made up of NCAA Division I head coaches, one representing each conference, voted UCF as one of the top teams in the nation for the seventh-straight week, dating back to last season. The Knights began the streak on March 25, 2008 when they received one vote in the poll, before they garnered a program-record 26 votes in the final poll of 2008. UCF won a program-record 49 games, securing the C-USA Championship crown and defeating top-ranked Florida in the NCAA Gainesville Regional.

Conference USA released its 2009 Preseason Coaches' Poll in January, with the defending C-USA champion Knights tabbed to finish fourth among the nine-team field behind first-place Houston, East Carolina and Tulsa. UCF is coming off of a 49-20 record last season, the best mark in program history. The Black and Gold finished second to the Cougars in the regular season, but downed UH, 4-2, in the league championship game to claim its first C-USA softball title and earned the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.

The league coaches voted the California duo of senior Breanne Javier and sophomore Tiffany Lane onto the 14-member preseason All-C-USA team, making UCF one of only four teams to have two players named to the squad.

Javier received preseason honors for the second-consecutive year after being named a first-team All-Conference USA member in 2008, while also being voted onto the C-USA Championship All-Tournament team. The senior led UCF in seven offensive categories in 2008 and tallied 27 multi-hit games.

Lane was named the 2008 C-USA Championship MVP after hitting .583 in the event with seven hits, a double, a home run, four runs scored and two RBI, while maintaining a 1.000 fielding percentage. The shortstop also received C-USA All-Freshman team honors last season after posting program records in triples and stolen bases, while leading the league in three different categories.

Heading into the season-opener in Tempe, Ariz., on Feb. 6, senior Breanne Javier looks to climb even higher in 20 different UCF career batting and fielding categories in which she already ranks in the top-10. The first baseman already holds all-time records in chances (1,612), putouts (1,525) and most double-plays turned (36), while sitting in the top-five in batting average (.323), RBI (88), total bases (232), intentional walks (3), stolen base percentage (.900) and fielding percentage (.987).

Whether it knows it or not, Texas Tech owes UCF head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie a debt of gratitude. Gillispie built the softball program at Texas Tech and coached the squad in its inaugural season in 1996. The skipper went on to lead the Red Raiders to a No. 17 national ranking in 1998 and a No. 24 ranking in 1999. During Gillispie's tenure, Texas Tech won a total of 123 games, secured two top-four Big 12 Conference Tournament finishes and earned runner-up honors at at the 1999 NCAA Regional Championship.

The Knights return an experienced infield for the 2009 season, anchored by 2008 All-C-USA First Team honoree Breanne Javier at first base. Joining Javier in the dirt are are pair of veterans in junior Hillary Barrow, a member of the 2008 C-USA Championship all-tournament team, and sophomore Tiffany Lane, the 2008 C-USA Championship MVP. The lone newcomer to the infield quartet is freshman Natalie Land. The four-time Florida Class A All-State selection from Lafayette High School earned the spot as the Knights' starting second baseman with her consistent play during the fall season.

Senior Lexi Gresham will be the only returning starter for the Knights in the outfield in 2009, with four of her teammates vying for the final two spots. Junior Morgan Bullard looks to secure a starting spot in the grass this season after serving as a utility player in both 2007 and 2008. Junior transfer Mary Helen Tyler also brings two years of collegiate experience to the outfield, having played the past two seasons at Tallahassee Community College. While at TCC, Tyler was named an Easton All-American and helped lead her team to the 2008 NJCAA District H Championship. A pair of freshmen, Vanessa Perez and Tenisha Dixon, round out the outfield hopefuls, both bringing impressive prep credentials to the plate.

Pitching and catching go together like peanut butter and jelly, and with UCF returning two catchers and three pitchers, while welcoming an additional pitcher to the staff, the pieces have already been put together. Junior Ashleigh Cole will take over as the Knights' No. 1 pitcher with the departure of Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team selection Allison Kime. Cole posted a 13-7 record and 2.17 ERA in 21 starts last season for the Knights. Both sophomore Diana Rojas and senior Magon Paul return to the circle, and are joined by junior Kristina DeMello, a transfer from Miami Dade Community College. Calling the shots behind the plate for the experienced pitching staff with be veteran catchers Lindsay Dean and Abby McClain. Dean has started 112 games for the Knights behind the plate and led the team with four home runs in 2008. McClain, who originally came in as a catcher, served as a utility player last season for UCF, playing primarily at second base, but saw time in the outfield and behind the plate. Her efforts earned her a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman Team.

Season tickets are on sale now for the 2009 softball season, which features 34 home games at the UCF Softball Complex. For the latest news on the Knights, log on to www.UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit www.UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.