UCF Softball Sweeps Marshall in League Doubleheader

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April 16, 2011

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By Sarah Tarasewicz

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF softball team swept a doubleheader from Conference USA-rival Marshall Saturday afternoon at the UCF Softball Complex with a pair of late-inning rallies. The Knights opened the day with a, 5-4, victory on a bases-loaded squeeze play in the seventh inning in game one, before posting a, 6-5, extra-inning win in the nightcap on a bases-loaded fielder's choice and an error.

"This was definitely a true team effort to pick up both wins today," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "We had some different lineup changes and had to use people in the field that we have never used before. I am just so proud of the players for not seeing it as a disadvantage, but using it to step up and show what they are made of."

The pair of league victories improved the Black and Gold's record to 17-24 on the year and to an even 7-7 in C-USA play, while the Thundering Herd fell to 15-26 overall and 1-12 in league games with its pair of defeats.

Game One - UCF 5, Marshall 4 | Box Score
Behind a pair of three-hit performances from Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) and Allie Jest (Stone Mountain, Ga.), the Knights came from behind to defeat the Thundering Herd, 5-4, with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in their opening game of the doubleheader.

Land was 3-for-3 at the plate with one run scored, a stolen base and a walk, while Jest was 3-for-4 with two runs scored to pace the Black and Gold offense.

Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) was 1-for-1 with a RBI and three walks, and Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) accounted for the only additional hit for the home team with a single and one run scored. Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) also scored a run for the Knights and Kellie Todd (Ocala, Fla.) posted the game-winning RBI with bases loaded in the seventh.

Diana Rojas (Miami, Fla.) earned the win in the circle for UCF, allowing four runs, three of which were earned, on eight hits with a walk and a strikeout in a complete-game outing. The win improved Rojas' record to 7-9 on the year.

Marshall started the scoring with two runs in the top of the first inning, but the Black and Gold put one across in the bottom of the frame to cut the visitor's lead in half.

Jest led off the Knights' half of the first inning with a single to left centerfield and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Perez. Land put runners on first and third with a single down the right field line and stole second to put two runners in scoring position. A ball past Marshall's catcher allowed Jest to touch home safely and give UCF its first run of the game.

UCF scored two more runs in the bottom of the third inning to take its first lead of the game. Perez led off the frame with a walk, before a single by Land put runners on the corners. Menendez singled through the left side to bring Perez around to score and even the contest, 2-2, before Land stole home on a first-and-third play to put the Knights ahead by one run through three full innings.

Neither team scored a run through the next three innings, before the Thundering Herd scored two runs in the top of the seventh on a throwing error by the Knights and a double to centerfield.

Down by a single run heading into the bottom of the seventh, Lane and Jest started off the frame with back-to-back singles and both moved into scoring position on Perez's second sacrifice bunt of the contest. Marshall's reliever Erika Bennett attempted to intentionally walk Land to load the bases, but threw the ball past the catcher on ball three to allow Lane to knot the game at 4-4.

The Thundering Herd's starter, Williamson, re-entered the contest to complete the intentional walk on Land, before loading the bases with one out by allowing an intentional pass to Menendez. Luers-Gillispie made a gutsy call on the play, signaling Todd to lay down a bunt for a squeeze play. Todd placed the bunt perfectly down the first-base line, giving the speedy Land just enough time to score the game-winning run.

"We left a lot of runners on base in our last couple outings, so we knew that we needed to get something rolling in the seventh inning," Luers-Gillispie said. "We had a lot of speed at third base with Natalie, so I thought that we needed to seize the opportunity and squeeze her in. And, I tell you, Kellie couldn't have laid down a better bunt than she did in that game."

Game Two - UCF 6, Marshall 6 (8) | Box Score
A complete-team effort in the nightcap allowed the Black and Gold to post its second one-run win of the day, 6-5, vs. Marshall, as UCF cranked out 11 hits and had every available player make an appearance in the eight-inning contest.

Four different Knights tallied two hits apiece in the victory, with Lane leading the home team with two hits, a double, three runs scored and a walk, while Jest added two hits, two runs scored, a RBI, two stolen bases and a sacrifice hit.

Land and freshman Haley Douglas (Pleasanton, Calif.) also posted two hits each in the game. Land added a double, a RBI and a walk, and Douglas contributed a double and two RBI in her four at-bats.

Perez had a hit, a RBI, scored a run, walked twice and was hit by a pitch on the nightcap, while Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.) and Menendez also added hits for the Knights. Menendez also posted the game-winning, walk-off fielder's choice in the bottom of the eighth to help the home team to the series sweep.

In the circle, senior Ashley Schmitt (Tampa, Fla.) picked up her first win of the season in a career-best 8.0 innings pitched after allowing only one run on four hits with a career-high five strikeouts. The win improved the hurler's record to 1-4 on the year. Junior Lacey Dinney (Binbrook, Ont.) started the game on the mound, giving up three earned runs on three hits in the first inning before the team was able to record an out.

The Thundering Herd put four runs on the board right away in the top of the first inning, but the Black and Gold answered back with three runs in the bottom of the third to pull within one run of the visitors. Lane led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third on a single by Jest, while Jest stole second on the play to put two runners in scoring position. Perez singled to centerfield to drive in the Knights' first run of the game, before Menendez walked to load the bases.

With the bases juiced, Douglas hit a double to centerfield to drive in two more runs and cut Marshall's lead to one run, 4-3, through three complete innings.

"I was just trying to help my team any way that I could," Douglas said of the at-bat. "I just wanted to put the ball in play and make the defense work to get me out and it worked in our favor."

The Thundering Herd earned one of those runs back in the top of the fourth inning on a leadoff single and a RBI triple to right centerfield by Ashley Gue, but the Knights once again pulled within one run in the bottom of the sixth inning on a hit by Lane, a fielding error and a RBI single up the middle by Jest. The Knights evened the game on a single down the left field line by Land.

Both teams were held scoreless in the seventh frame, which sent the game into extra innings. In the eighth, Marshall had runners on second and third with two outs, and Schmitt was set to intentionally walk Telles to get to Gue, but Telles swung at ball four and lined out to Land to end the inning.

"I figured she was going to swing at the next pitch I threw after I saw her leaning way over the plate on the last pitch I threw," Schmitt said. "So, in my mind I was thinking that if she swung she was more than likely going to pop it up and that's what she ended up doing. So, she just saved me from having to throw to another batter in that inning."

Lane led off the home half of the eighth with a double to short left centerfield and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jest. Two-consecutive intentional walks allowed to Perez and Land loaded the bases once again for the home team, before a fielder's choice off the bat of Menendez and an error on the play allowed Lane to score the walk-off run.

The Knights conclude their three-game series vs. Marshall Sunday at 11 a.m. at the UCF Softball Complex.