April 17, 2011
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By Sarah Tarasewicz
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF (18-24, 8-7 C-USA) softball team scored 10 runs, its second-best total of the year, to defeat visiting Marshall (15-27, 1-13 C-USA), 10-6, in its Conference USA series finale Sunday afternoon at the UCF Softball Complex and earn its first league sweep of the season.
"Being able to sweep Marshall this weekend was really huge for us," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "It not only improved our record to over .500 in conference, but it was a huge confidence builder for us heading down the stretch. The players were able to step up when they needed to and continued to fight the entire game, and I think that shows a lot about how bad they want to win."
Six different Knights posted hits in the contest, with Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) pacing the Black and Gold with a hit and three RBI. Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) added a hit, a sacrifice fly and a pair of RBI, while Allie Jest (Stone Mountain, Ga.) tallied a walk, two RBI and scored three runs for the home team.
Menendez's sacrifice fly in the win gave her five on the year and also placed her in a three-way tie for the most sac flies in a season with former Knights Hillary Barrow and Rachelle Schmidt, who had five in 2008 and 2003, respectively.
Ashley Schmitt (Tampa, Fla.) and Patrice Fee (Cocoa, Fla.) each had a hit, a sacrifice hit and scored two runs, with Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) and Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.) posting a hit and one run scored apiece.
In the circle, Lacey Dinney (Binbrook, Ont.) improved to 10-7 on the year after allowing only one run on three hits with three strikeouts in 4.1 innings of relief to earn the win. Diana Rojas (Miami, Fla.) started the game on the mound for the Knights, allowing five runs, none of which were earned, on six hits with one strikeout in 2.2 innings pitched.
UCF posted its first run of the contest in the bottom of the first inning. Jest led off the game with a walk and stole second base to move into scoring position, before Land advanced her to third with a bunt single back at the pitcher. Menendez then drove Jest in with her sacrifice fly to right centerfield to give the home team an early lead.
The Knights then improved their lead to four runs with three scores in the bottom of the second inning. Kellie Todd (Ocala, Fla.) was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and Marshall's first baseman made a throwing error on Fee's sacrifice bunt to put two runners in scoring position. Schmitt walked to load the bases, and Jest grounded out to second base to bring the first run of the inning in to score. Another throwing error, this time by the Herd's third baseman, on a grounder by Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) allowed two more runs to score for the Black and Gold, giving it a 4-0 advantage.
Marshall erased the Knights' lead in the top of the third inning with five runs on four hits and four UCF fielding errors.
The Black and Gold returned the favor in the bottom of the fourth after scoring a pair of runs to regain its lead. Schmitt hit a one-out single through the right side to start the inning. Jest was hit by a pitch and Land drew a two-out walk to load the bases, before an error by Marshall's second baseman allowed Schmitt to score and a walk allowed to Lane brought Jest around to put UCF back on top.
The Thundering Herd would score a single run in the top of the fifth, but UCF answered with four runs in the home half of the inning to secure the win. In the frame, Fee and Swan hit back-to-back singles and advanced to second and third on Schmitt's sacrifice bunt. Fee scored on a RBI fielder's choice off the bat of Jest and Swan touched home on Menendez's single up the middle of the infield. Lane then knocked a two-RBI single up the middle of the infield to help the Knights clinch the series victory.
"We have been struggling to bring runners in to score in that situation all season," Luers-Gillispie said. "And today we just seemed to have the confidence to be able to drive the ball when they needed to. Tiffany really came up big for us in that inning with her single to drive those two runs in."
The Knights are back in action Wednesday when they travel to Gainesville for a non-conference showdown with No. 10 Florida. The contest is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m.