Feb. 26, 2011
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By Sarah Tarasewicz
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF softball team used nine hits, two home runs and three runs in both the fourth and sixth innings to defeat Maine, 6-3, in its opening game of the UCF/Courtyard by Marriott Invitational II, but dropped its nightcap to Villanova, 4-1, in extra innings Saturday night at the UCF Softball Complex.
"I think that the way we played today, even though we lost the second game, proves that we are finally heading back in the right direction," junior Natalie Land said. "We just need to stay consistent and continue to be patient at the plate."
The split moved the Knights' record to 4-10 on the year and 1-3 in the tournament, while the Black Bears fell to 3-6 overall and the Wildcats improved to 4-4 with their win over the Black and Gold.
Game One - UCF 6, Maine 3
UCF tallied nine hits, with both Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa) and Kellie Todd (Ocala, Fla.) hitting home runs and three players posting a pair of hits, to claim a 6-3 victory over Maine Saturday afternoon.
Todd led the squad with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate, which included her first-career home run, a double, two RBI and two runs scored.
Land and sophomore Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) also added two hits for the Black and Gold, with Menendez scoring a pair of runs.
In the circle, Diana Rojas (Miami, Fla.) picked up her third win of the season after holding the Black Bears to three runs on seven hits in her first complete-game outing of the year. The senior also recorded four strikeouts and did not walk a batter in the start.
"I think that Diana is doing a great job pitching for us this season," McClain said. "Her performances keep improving with every appearance and I think that we are going to see more and more great things from her."
The Knights fell down by one run in the top of the third inning, but the home team used a three-run fourth inning to take a two-run lead in the contest. McClain hit her second home run in as many games to deep centerfield to lead off the frame and evened the game at 1-1.
"I was going up to the plate just making adjustments from my first at-bat," McClain said of her home run. "I knew that I needed to stay on top of the ball and make contact and that's what I did on that pitch. I am just happy to see that our offense is starting to show more patience at the plate and it is really paying off."
Menendez then drew a walk to keep the momentum with the offense and a putout to the right side allowed her to advance to second base and into scoring position. Todd ripped a double to left center to bring Menendez around to score and Fee followed up with a single to left field to allow Todd to touch home safely and give the Black and Gold the lead heading into the fifth inning.
Maine once again tied the game with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning, but the Knights had an answer for the Black Bears once again, posting three runs in the home half of the frame. Menendez led off the inning with a bunt single and advanced to third on a throwing error on Vanessa Perez's (San Diego, Calif.) second sacrifice bunt of the game. With runners at the corners, Perez stole second and another throwing error by the Black Bears that skidded to the outfield allowed both Menendez and Perez to advance home on the play.
The Black and Gold would put one more insurance run on the scoreboard when Todd hit her first home run as a Knight over the centerfield fence.
Game Two - UCF 1, Villanova 4 (8 innings)
In the nightcap vs. Villanova, the Knights were able to scatter six hits throughout the contest, but Land's solo home run in the opening frame would be the only run the Black and Gold would put across as they fell to the Wildcats, 4-1, in eight innings.
"I was just going up to the plate and looking for a pitch in my zone and she gave it to me," Land said of the home run. "When I saw it, I just swung as hard as I could and it just so happened to go over."
Ashley Schmitt (Tampa, Fla.) was tagged with the loss in the circle after allowing three earned runs on nine hits with a strikeout and two walks in 7.1 innings of work. Rojas also saw time on the mound, as she shut down the Wildcat's offense for the final two outs of the game.
Land put the Knights ahead early with one swing of the bat as her home run to centerfield with one out in the first inning gave UCF a 1-0 lead. Land's homer would be the only run scored through the next four innings, before the Wildcats knotted the contest late with a single run in the sixth inning.
With the score tied, 1-1, heading into the final frame, Villanova was not able to capitalize on a one-out triple in the top of the inning thanks to the pitching of Schmitt and the solid play of the UCF defense. But, the Knights were not able to get a run across and the game went into extra innings for the first time in 2011.
Beginning in the eighth inning, a runner was placed on second base for each team due to the International Tie-Breaker rule, and in the visitor's half of the frame, the Wildcats were able to push three runs across on an intentional walk, a sacrifice bunt, a single and a double.
UCF was unable to respond in the bottom of the frame as it stranded two runners on base to end the game.
The Black and Gold concludes play in its home tournament Sunday with a 1 p.m. match-up vs. in-state rival North Florida.
Fans can follow all of the action at the UCF/Courtyard by Marriott Invitational II by going to the Tournament Central page on UCFAthletics.com. On the site, fans will find the tournament schedule, links to live stats, live audio and live video and boxscores from each contest.
The Knights have 24 home games remaining on their 2011 schedule, with season tickets for the season costing only $40. Tickets are available for purchase online at UCFAthletics.com and Ticketmaster.com, or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) UCF-1000.