March 31, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - In front of a record crowd of 1,091 Black and Gold faithful, the UCF softball team dropped a nine-inning heartbreaker to No. 6 Florida Wednesday night, 4-3, at the UCF Softball Complex. The Knights combined for 10 hits in the extra-inning affair, which included two doubles off the bat of Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and two hits from Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.).
Freshman Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) posted one of the biggest hits of the night for the Black and Gold, as her second triple of the year scored a pair of runs in the sixth inning for the Knights. Sophomore Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) also tallied a RBI for UCF on one hit in the fifth.
"The opportunities that our hitters gave us by putting runners in scoring position allowed Natalie and Marissa to provide the clutch hits that we needed to stay up on Florida through the majority of the contest."
The capacity crowd for the contest against the rival Gators shattered the former UCF all-time record of 687 set in 2008, when the Knights entertained Florida State in a doubleheader on April 9.
"I cannot thank the fans enough for giving us an amazing atmosphere for the game tonight," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "I know that the players were feeding off of the energy and the support they provided us. My hope is that they will join us again next Wednesday when we take on Florida State."
With the heartbreaking loss, the Black and Gold fell to 22-13 on the season, 3-3 against ranked opponents and 3-3 against teams from the Southeastern Conference. The contest also marked the first time the Knights have lost in extra-innings and the first time they gave up a run after the seventh frame in 2010.
With nine strikeouts in the complete-game outing, senior Ashleigh Cole (Pace, Fla.) matched her career-high for strikeouts in a game, while holding Florida to four runs on 15 hits. Though she pitched a solid game, Cole dropped her overall record to 14-7 on the year with the defeat.
"For Cole to come out and strike out nine batters against a tough Florida lineup just shows that she deserves to be put in the same league as the best in the country," Luers-Gillispie said. "She put together a nice performance in the circle for us."
Both teams were held scoreless through the first four innings, but with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning the Knights put two runners on after Perez and Morgan Bullard (Columbia, S.C.) reached on back-to-back singles. With family and friends from her hometown of Mayo, Fla., cheering her on in the stands, Land laced a two-out RBI single up the middle of the infield to plate Perez and give the Knights a one-run advantage heading into the sixth frame.
The Knights' lead would not last long, however, as the Gator's Corrie Brooks nailed a home run deep over the centerfield fence to even the game, 1-1, in the top of the sixth.
UCF answered back with a leadoff single through the left side by Palafox and a double down the left field line by Lane, her second of the game, to once again put two runners on base with no outs in the bottom half of the frame. Menendez, who entered the contest batting a team-best .357 with five hits and three RBI against Top 25 teams this season, blasted a triple to right centerfield to add two more RBI to her count and give UCF a two-run lead. The two-RBI shot by the rookie knocked Florida's ace, Stephanie Brombacher out of the game.
But, the Gators cut UCF's lead to one run on back-to-back hits from Michelle Moultrie and Francesca Enea in the top of the seventh, before putting runners on the corners with no outs. Cole got Megan Bush to pop out to Lane at shortstop, but tough-hitting Florida managed to knot the game at 3-3 on a single to left field by Brittany Schutte. With runners at second and third for UF, Cole caught both Tiffany DeFelice and Brooks looking for the second and third outs of the inning to end Florida's threat and enter the bottom half of the frame even.
The Black and Gold were not able to scoring in the bottom of the inning, so it was on to extra innings for the Knights, a situation in which they have strived all season long. UCF's defense has been remarkable after seven innings, not allowing a run to its opponents, which included the eighth inning for the Gators.
With one out in the eighth for Florida, Aja Paculba hit a triple to left centerfield with the heart of the UF's lineup behind her. Moultrie hit a line shot, but Lane laid out to make a spectacular snag to put two outs on the board. Enea drew the two-out walk to put runners on the corners, and on the next pitch, took off for second base. Catcher Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa) threw down to second, Lane cut off the toss and threw home to catch Paculba stealing home and get the Knights out of the inning unscathed.
Menendez drew a one-out walk to lead off the bottom of the eighth, before Cole brought her around to third with a single down the left field line. With runners perched at second and third, relief pitch Ensley Gammel ended the inning with her fourth strikeout of the contest.
UCF's extra-inning magic ran out in the top of the ninth, as Schutte gave the Gators their first lead of the contest with a two-out home run over the centerfield fence, a run that would prove to be the eventual game-winner.
The Black and Gold put a pair of runners in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth with only one out after Land reached on a fielder's choice and Barrow took second on an error by the Gator's first baseman, but Gammel's fifth and sixth strikeouts of the contest put the game away.
The Knights return to the UCF Softball Complex this weekend when they host Conference USA foe East Carolina in a three-game series. The two teams will play a 3 p.m. doubleheader Friday, before closing out the weekend with a single game at 12 p.m. Saturday.
Season tickets for the 2010 season are only $40 and are on sale now, while single-game tickets are also available for purchase. Tickets can be purchased online at UCFAthletics.com or through the Athletics Ticket Office by calling (407) 823-1000.
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.