Seniors Shine as UCF Softball Earns Series Sweeps vs. Southern Miss


May 1, 2011

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By Sarah Tarasewicz

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The seniors on the UCF softball team made sure to leave a lasting impression in their final game at the UCF Softball Complex Sunday afternoon, as Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.), Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa), Ashley Schmitt (Tampa, Fla.) and Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.) combined for five hits, a home run, a double, six RBI and five runs scored, and Diana Rojas (Miami, Fla.) picked up her ninth win of the year in the circle, to lead the Knights to a 7-2 win over Southern Miss and clinch its second Conference USA series sweep in three weeks.

"It was great to see all five of the seniors do a fantastic job for their team today," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said after the game. "I am so proud of those five players. Today they showed what it is to be a leader and step up to do their part when their team needed them. I am also proud of all of the hard work they have done this year to try and get this team up-and-running. They know that it doesn't matter how you start, but how you finish. And right now they are putting us on the right road to finish strong."

With the league-series sweep, UCF improved its overall record to 21-28 and also moved to 11-10 in conference action, while the Golden Eagles fell to 17-33 on the season and 4-17 in C-USA standings.

For the third-straight game, Swan led the Black and Gold at the plate by going 2-for-3 with three RBI and one run scored, while Schmitt posted a double and drove in two runs. McClain hit her eighth home run of the year, a solo shot, scored two runs and drew a walk and Lane added a hit and two runs scored.

"I have been struggling a little at the plate since being moved into the DP spot, so it just felt good to be able to help out the team again," McClain said of her home run. "It was really, really cool for me to see all of our teammates working together today to pull off this Senior Day and make it really nice for us."

Rojas earned the win on the mound after allowing only one earned run on four hits with one walk and two strikeouts in her 12th complete-game outing of 2011. The win improved her record to 9-11 overall and 5-5 in league play.

"It was great to first of all get another sweep this season, but it was also nice to win the last game that we are ever going to play here," Rojas said. "It was just a good day for all five of us seniors."

Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.), Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) and Allie Jest (Stone Mountain, Ga.) also had hits for the Knights in the contest, with Menendez tallying a double, a walk and one run scored and Land registering a walk and a RBI.

After falling down by two runs in the top of the second inning, the Knights answered back with four runs in the home half of the frame before Southern Miss was even able to get its first out. UCF then went on to add one more on a single up the middle by Land with one out and bases loaded. In the frame, the Knights scored five runs on seven hits with a solo home run and five RBI.

McClain started the scoring barrage with her eighth home run of the season over the left field fence to cut the Golden Eagles' lead in half, before Lane followed up with a single to left field and moved to third on Menendez's double off the right field wall. A walk issued to Patrice Fee (Cocoa, Fla.) loaded the bases and a single up the middle of the infield off the bat of Swan brought Lane around and evened the game at two runs apiece.

Schmitt nailed a two-RBI double to the right centerfield gap to give the Knights a two-run advantage, before a bunt single by Jest with two runners on loaded the bases once again for the Black and Gold with no outs in the inning. A pop-up to the second baseman was UCF's first out of the inning, but Land put an insurance run on the board with her single up the middle of the infield to score Swan.

Two more runs touched home safely for the Black and Gold in the bottom of the fifth inning, as it extended its lead to five runs, 7-2. McClain and Lane drew back-to-back walks to start the inning, before advancing to second and third base by tagging up on a deep fly ball to right field by Menendez. That's when Swan sent a shot up the middle of the infield to score a pair of runs and give UCF a five-run cushion heading into the sixth.

Rojas retired the side in both the sixth and seventh innings to secure the series sweep and leave the UCF Softball Complex for the last time with a victory.

The Knights return to action and wrap up their regular-season schedule May 7-8 when they travel to Houston for a three-game C-USA road series.