April 6, 2011
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By Sarah Tarasewicz
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF (13-22, 3-6 C-USA) softball team scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat in-state rival Florida State (17-20, 3-6 ACC), 2-1, in dramatic fashion Wednesday night at the UCF Softball Complex in front of a rowdy crowd of 538 fans and a regional audience on Bright House Sports Network. Senior hurler Diana Rojas (Miami, Fla.) went the distance for the Knights in the circle in one of the best performances of her career, allowing only one run on four hits to the visiting Seminoles.
"Diana had a fantastic game on the mound," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "You could just see that she had energy and confidence out there. She was just taking care of business. I think it was by far one of her best complete-games that she has had since she's been here, and what a great way to go out there against Florida State."
Rojas' stellar performance on the mound held Florida State's bats in check, as she did not give up a walk and struck out one batter, allowing the home team to rally for the come-from-behind victory in its final at bat.
Down 1-0 heading into the frame, it was do or die for the Black and Gold, and with two outs and no one on base it was up to junior Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) to make something happen, and the Knights' starting centerfield did just that. Down to her last strike, Perez patiently watched a ball go by, before legging out an infield single to the shortstop to start the rally.
"We knew that we needed to get a runner on," Luers-Gillispie said. "We knew that once we got a runner on in that situation we could make things happen. Vanessa did what she does best and battled at the plate until their pitcher made a mistake, and then she took advantage of it."
Sophomore Patrice Fee (Cocoa, Fla.) then stepped to the plate and sent a double down the left field line to bring Perez around to score all the way from first base and knot the score 1-1 with Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) in the on-deck circle.
Swinging the hottest bat for the Knights in their last 11 games, Lane was exactly who UCF wanted at the plate with a runner in scoring position. The lefty did not disappoint the crowd, as she hit a ground ball down the third base line and used her speed to force FSU's Briana Hamilton to rush the throw to first base. The throw went wide, allowing Lane to reach base safely and giving Fee enough time to score the game winning run.
"I think that the fans made all the difference in the world today," Luers-Gillispie said. "When you hear the fans cheering for you, it's amazing what happens to our players. They really stepped up and realized that they are playing for someone other than just themselves."
Perez, Fee and Lane accounted for all three of the Knights' hits in the contest, with Fee tallying a double, a RBI and one run scored to pace the squad at the plate. Senior Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa) also reached base twice for the Black and Gold after drawing a pair of walks.
Rojas and Florida State starter Sarah Hamilton were caught in a pitcher's duel through the first five innings of the game, as neither hurler allowed a runner to touch third base and combined to give up only three hits until the sixth inning, when the Seminoles finally pushed a run across on a two-out bloop single to right field, despite a valiant effort by Land to run it down.
UCF held the visiting team scoreless in the top of the seventh and used the motivation from the crowd to stage its comeback in the bottom of the frame.
"I thought it was a really good game," Rojas said. "There never really was a time that I thought we were going to lose, even though we had two outs and were down 1-0. I just didn't think we were going to lose the whole game."
The Knights are back in action this weekend as they travel to Greenville, N.C., for a three-game Conference USA series against East Carolina. Saturday's doubleheader is set to begin at 1 p.m., while Sunday's series finale is scheduled for 12 p.m.