Cole, Knights Upset No. 9 Alabama on Final Day of NFCA Leadoff Classic


Feb. 28, 2010

Box Score

Columbus, Ga. (UCFAthletics.com) - Continuing her dominance on the mound, senior Ashleigh Cole (Pace, Fla.) allowed only two runs on four hits to No. 9 Alabama in a complete-game outing Sunday afternoon to help the UCF softball team to a, 3-2, upset victory on the final day of the NFCA Leadoff Classic.

"We talk to the players how important it is to have nationally ranked teams on our schedule this year," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "It made me so proud to see them step up and take advantage of that opportunity today and to see them perform at the level we know they are capable of playing."

Cole improved to 5-4 on the season with the win, which includes two wins over ranked opponents. Along with the win over the Crimson Tide, Cole also earned a victory in the Knights' season-opener against then No. 16 Tennessee.

"It felt really good to get that win today," Cole said after the game. "That is how we know we can play game-in and game-out. I knew going into this weekend that we needed to get some wins under our belt and build our confidence. In the earlier games in the tournament we were only one to two runs away, even one hit away, from winning, and today and last night the offense strung together the hits we needed to get the job done."

The Knights received six hits from six different players in one of the biggest upsets in program history, with Hillary Barrow (Miami, Fla.), Arielle Palafox (Lakewood, Calif.) and Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) each driving in a run for the Black and Gold.

"The win over Alabama was huge for us," Barrow said. "We were fighting the whole game. This win shows that we can play with anybody. It was just an awesome feeling for all of us."

UCF stunned the Crimson Tide right out of the gate, as sophomore Natalie Land (Mayo. Fla.) got things rolling with a single up the middle of the infield and advanced to second on a passed ball. Barrow would bring Land around to score with a single through the left side of the infield.

Cole then stepped up to the plate to help her own cause, lacing an opposite field single through the right side of the infield. The hit moved Barrow all the way to third base and, with Alabama trying to toss Barrow out on the play, Cole moved into scoring position.

With runners as second and third, Palafox showed no fear against one of the top teams in the nation as she stroked a single to left field to allow Barrow to touch home plate and put the Knights up by two runs.

Another freshman came through in the clutch for the Black and Gold, as Menendez plated the eventual game-winning run with a single right up the middle of the infield.

"Jumping out on them in the first inning was really big," Barrow said. "Before the game we could kind of tell that they were down, so we knew that we had to jump on them early before they knew what was coming."

Alabama cut UCF's lead to one run in the top of the third, scoring two runs on a solo home run and a sacrifice fly, but Cole held the tough-hitting Tide at bay for the remainder of the contest, going on to post her fifth victory of the season and her second against a ranked opponent.

Alabama had a chance to tie the game in the fourth inning. With runners at first and third with two outs, the Crimson Tide attempted to steal second base. Catcher Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa) tossed the ball to second base, and, with the ball sailing a little high, Land used a massive vertical jump to snag the ball out of the air and catch the runner stealing to end the scoring threat.

"The last two games, the team showed a lot of cohesion as they fought against the tough competition they faced," Gillispie said. "Cole and McClain were prime examples of that. They were on the same page, almost reading each other's minds, as they shut down batters by keeping them off balance."

Cole once again worked her way out of a jam in the top of the seventh inning, with Courtney Conley leading off the inning with a single through the left side. The runner moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt, but Cole tallied one of her three strikeouts against the next batter to puts two outs on the board. Then, to finish off her spectacular outing, Cole got the final batter of the game to groundout to second base for the final out of the game.

"It felt awesome to get that strikeout in the seventh inning," Cole said. "I had Hillary out there cheering me on the whole time and she gave me confidence. I knew she had my back and I knew that the rest of the team had my back, so I just went after her."

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