April 25, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Behind senior Ashleigh Cole's (Pace, Fla.) 26th complete-game outing, in which she did not allow an earned run and gave up only five hits, the UCF softball team defeated Tulsa, 2-1, to clinch the Conference USA series Sunday afternoon at the UCF Softball Complex on Senior Day.
"We knew we needed to come out and win because it was senior day and we wanted to be sent off on a good note," Hillary Barrow (Miami, Fla.) said. "We knew we had to come out and fight hard to take down this tough conference team."
The win over the Golden Hurricane improved the Knights' record to 29-20 overall and 13-7 in league action, while it also moved the Black and Gold into second place in the C-USA standings, just behind East Carolina.
Cole improved her record to 18-12 on the year with her victory in the circle, as she struck out two batters and walked only one in the outing.
"Today just shows how much of a warrior Ashleigh is," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "To be able to pitch nine innings yesterday and within 12 hours to come back and pitch a great game takes a lot of heart. She has really worked hard on getting her level of fitness to level it needs to be to stay in those long games. It just shows that all the hard work she has done has paid off.
Fellow seniors Barrow and Mary Helen Tyler (Marianna, Fla.) also came up big in the clutch for UCF in the victory. Barrow posted a hit and scored the game-winning run, while Tyler drove Barrow in with her game-winning RBI single in the fourth inning.
Junior Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) once again paced the Black and Gold at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and one run scored, while Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) also shined both offensively and defensively in the contest. The sophomore was 1-for-1 with a RBI and two walks at the plate, while the second baseman also made at least two spectacular diving plays in the dirt to keep Tulsa from scoring.
"We all know that if the ball is anywhere in the vicinity of Natalie, the play will most likely result in an out," Cole said. "When you have Natalie making plays like that behind you, it really helps with my confidence as a pitcher knowing that she has my back."
Thanks to a RBI single by Land, the Knights took a one-run lead in the bottom of the third inning. Lane started off the frame with a double to left field and then scored on Land's infield single.
The Black and Gold had another run cross the plate in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI single by Tyler. The frame got started with back-to-back singles from Barrow and McClain. Menendez advanced the runners on a grounder to the right side, before Tyler's single to the shortstop allowed Barrow to touch home safely and give the Knights a two-run advantage through four innings of play.
"Mary Helen was in a tough position but she came out with a big play," Luers-Gillispie said. "That was a huge RBI for us and I was really happy that she went with that pitch."
Tulsa cut UCF's lead in half in the top of the seventh on a hit, a UCF fielding error, a pair of fielder's choices and a bloop single down the left field line. But Cole and the Knights' defense were able to get out of the jam and win the game on a pair of fly outs to centerfield with runners on second and third.
"We talked a lot yesterday about not letting outside distractions effect what we are doing on the field," Luers-Gillispie said. "We knew we needed to keep them out of scoring position and our pitching came through to help us get a few pop-outs to close out the game."
On top of taking the series, the day was an emotional one for the five seniors that were honored for their hard-work and dedication to the UCF softball program.
"Senior day is always emotional," Luers-Gillispie said. "You now know why many coaches wear sunglasses when they are out there honoring their seniors. We are really going to miss these seniors and they've worked so hard this year. They've been a great group of leaders and have always been the ones to push their teammates. Their inspiration to get to the post season is really helping them push the team to excel. I was really proud of how the team really stepped up for each other."
All five of the seniors had their families in attendance to share this special day with them and the tight knit group of leaders was happy to share this experience with one another.
"We have a really good group of seniors," Tyler said. "We bring a lot of different personalities. Some of us are a little bit more vocal than others while some lead the team by example. We balance each other out really well."
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