April 24, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF softball team split a pair of extra-inning Conference USA contests with Tulsa Saturday afternoon at the UCF Softball Complex, as the Black and Gold dropped a 1-0, nine-inning heartbreaker in the opening contest, before bouncing back to take a 4-3 victory in eight innings in the nightcap.
"I have to give credit to the team, some of the plays they made today you cannot teach or practice," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "It just showed a lot of courage to be able to stay focused after losing the first game while having played so hard for nine innings. Coming back to take a huge win in the nightcap proved they are not easily discouraged."
The split moved the Knights' record to 28-20 overall and 12-7 in C-USA play, while the Golden Hurricane moved to 26-18 on the season and 9-4 in league action following the doubleheader.
"The first game did not go exactly as planned today," freshman Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) said. "But, we regrouped to win the second game. It is Senior Weekend so we wanted to build something to take into tomorrow, so we could win the series."
GAME TWO - UCF 4, Tulsa 3 (8 innings)
Sophomore Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) shined for the Knights' offense in the nightcap, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored, while Menendez, Hillary Barrow (Miami, Fla.), Mary Helen Tyler (Marianna, Fla.) and Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) accounted for UCF's four additional hits.
Senior Kristina DeMello (Mead, Wash.) earned the win in the circle for the Black and Gold, giving up only one hit and holding Tulsa scoreless in 2.2 inning of relief to improve her record to 6-6 on the year. Diana Rojas (Miami, Fla.) was given the starting nod in the circle in the second game for UCF, allowing three runs on six hits in 5.1 innings of work.
"We knew we wanted to give Diana a shot to start today because she was really solid during practice this week and really confident in the bullpen," Luers-Gillispie said. "We figured we would have a good shot at winning if we were unpredictable. When Tulsa started hitting Diana harder toward the end of the game, we knew we could depend on Kristina to close out the game and get us the win. She threw a really good game and was on her mark."
The Knights plated their first run of the day in the opening frame of the nightcap after Lane led off the inning with a single up the middle, stole second, advanced to third on a putout and touched home on a sacrifice fly to deep left field off the bat of McClain.
The Golden Hurricane evened the contest four innings later on a bases-loaded single through the left side by Lauren Menke. The bases remained juiced for the visiting squad with no outs in the frame, but Rojas got Caitlin Everett to ground out to Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) to get the lead runner out at home for out No. 1. The defense stepped up again behind their pitcher to get Rojas out of the jam on the very next play, turning a double play to end the inning.
The game would not stay knotted for long, as Tulsa would put two more runs on the board in the top of the sixth, but the Knights cut the lead to one run with a RBI single off the bat of Barrow with runners on second and third. Then, UCF would even the contest on a failed pickoff attempt by Tulsa, with the Golden Hurricane's catcher tossing an errant throw on a run-down involving Land. The speedy second baseman would touch home on the play to make the game 3-3 through six.
Neither team could put a run across in the seventh, and the Knights' defense would hold Tulsa scoreless in the top of the eighth. That is when UCF went to work. Lane led off the frame with an infield single, advanced to second on a walk allowed to Land and moved to third after tagging on a fly ball from McClain. Tulsa brought in Kalynn Schrock to intentionally walk Barrow, but a passed ball by the catcher allowed Lane to swipe home and give the Knights the hard-fought victory.
GAME ONE - UCF 0, Tulsa 1 (9 innings)
The opening game of the C-USA doubleheader proved to be a pitcher's dual between UCF's Ashleigh Cole (Pace, Fla.) and Tulsa's Jackie Lawrence, but it was Cole who would eventually be tagged with the loss in the circle after nine innings of work.
The senior allowed only one run on five hits, while striking out four, but fell to 17-12 on the season when the Golden Hurricane scored in the top of the ninth on a wild pitch with runners on second and third.
Lawrence (11-6) was also solid in the circle for the visiting squad, giving up four hits to the Knights, with three strikeouts and only one walk in a complete-game shutout.
Four different Knights posted the hits off of the right-hander, with Land stroking the only extra-base hits for the Black and Gold, a double in the sixth inning. Barrow, McClain and Menendez also recorded pokes in the contest.
UCF was unable to bring a runner in to score, however, stranding six runners on base throughout the opener.
The Knights conclude the series with Tulsa Sunday at 12 p.m. Prior to the first pitch, the UCF softball team will honor its five seniors, Barrow, Cole, Tyler, DeMello and Morgan Bullard (Columbia, S.C.), in honor of Senior Day.
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