UCF Softball Takes C-USA Series from UTEP with 6-0 Victory

March 13, 2011

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By Sarah Tarasewicz

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - With her hit in the first inning, junior Allie Jest (Stone Mountain, Ga.) broke the UCF program record by extending her hitting streak to 16 games as the UCF (9-17, 2-1 C-USA) softball team defeated UTEP (12-11, 1-2 C-USA), 6-0, to claim its first victory in its season-opening Conference USA series since joining the league in 2006.

"We knew that we had to do well in our first C-USA series out," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "And I think that we played one of our best all-around games of the year today. We are trying to take inspiration from our women's basketball team. They struggled early on in the season, but they got hot at the right time and put together an impressive win streak to take home the C-USA Championship title last night. That is what we are looking to do now that our conference season has started."

Jest surpassed Breanne Javier, who formerly held the hit-streak record of 15 games since 2008, with a single back at the pitcher in the first inning. The junior also scored a run and stole a pair of bases on the day.

"I have never broken a record before so it's definitely a different feeling, especially since it is my first season here," Jest said of her streak. "It just felt great to finally come together as a team this weekend and pick up two wins."

"Allie is just so exciting to watch out there," Luers-Gillispie said of Jest. "You never know what she is going to do. She could lay down a bunt, slap it into the infield or power slap it up the middle. She just has a way of always making something happen when she is at the plate."

The speedy lefty was one of four Knights to post a hit in the contest, with senior Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa) and junior Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) leading the team with two hits apiece and sophomore Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) hitting her first home run of the season.

"It felt good to hit the home run today. After hitting the ball hard all weekend and not having them drop in, I needed a little encouragement," Menendez said of her long ball. "So, when I stepped to the plate (in the sixth inning) I knew I was going to get a base hit, and when I did get a hold of the ball it just went over."

McClain posted a game-high two RBI and Land added a double, a RBI and scored a run for the Black and Gold, while Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.), Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.) and Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) each touched home safely in the contest.

Junior Lacey Dinney (Binbrook, Ont.) threw her first-career complete-game shutout for the Knights in the circle to pick up her second win of the weekend against UTEP. The hurler struck out eight batters and gave up only three hits and three walks to improve her record to 6-4 on the year.

"Lacey did a great job today," Luers-Gillispie said. "She has just been dominant on the mound for us this weekend and with her out there, we now know that we can win at least two games out of every league series."

UCF jumped out on the Miners early in the contest, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Jest started off the contest with a hit back at the pitcher and stole both second and third base, before Swan put runners at first and third by drawing a walk. Swan stole second base to put two runners in scoring position, and Land drove Jest in with a double to left field. McClain followed with a single to centerfield which allowed both Swan and Land to touch home safely and gave the Black and Gold a nice three-run cushion.

Menendez extended the Knights' lead to four runs when she led off the sixth inning with a solo home run over the right field fence, before two more runs would cross in the frame on a fielding error by the Miners' shortstop on a ball hit off the bat of Jest.

Dinney and the UCF defense would then hold the Miners scoreless in the top of the seventh to seal the victory.

The Knights have 12 home games remaining on their 2011 schedule, including a contest vs. in-state rival Florida State on April 6, 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.