UCF Softball Splits the First Two Games of the Courtyard by Marriott Invitational

Feb. 24, 2012

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By Andrew Jennette

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF softball team (5-7) split its first of two doubleheaders scheduled for this weekend on Friday vs. Seton Hall and Jacksonville at the UCF & Courtyard by Marriott Invitational. The Knights scored a come-from-behind victory against the Pirates 3-1 in the first game before dropping a tough game 3-2 to the Dolphins in the last game of the day.

Game One - UCF 3, Seton Hall 1 - Box Score

Despite some early inning troubles, senior Ali Schmidt (Cordova, Md.) was dominant in her first-career home start. Schmidt allowed a lead-off double and a two-out RBI single in the second inning that allowed the Pirates to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. However, from that point forward, Schmidt was dominant and virtually unhittable.

The most experienced pitcher on the Knights' staff, Schmidt retired 13 consecutive batters from the final out of the second inning through the final out of the sixth inning. Schmidt finished the complete-game victory allowing just four hits and one earned run with a career-best seven strikeouts and just one walk in seven innings pitched.

Schmidt was aided by several impressive defensive plays behind her as the Knights committed no errors and made multiple hit-saving stops.

Freshman Farrah Sullivan (Waynesboro, Miss.) made back-to-back plays in the fourth inning that robbed Pirates batters of base hits. Sullivan made a full-extension diving stop to her left on a well-hit ball, got up and made a perfect throw for the first out of the inning. On the very next pitch, Sullivan went deep into the hole toward the third-base bag going to her right this time, planted her feet, and threw a laser across the diamond to beat the runner by half a step.

The Black and Gold picked up their first run of the game in the fifth inning when senior Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) legged out an infield single and then promptly stole second base for her team-leading fifth swipe of the season. The Knights' hottest hitter, junior Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) drove Land in with a ripped stand-up triple into the right centerfield gap. Menendez is hitting a sizzling .368 on the season and has hit safely in 11 of the Knights' first 12 games. Sullivan gave the Knights the lead they wouldn't relinquish with a sacrifice fly to deep center for her team-leading eighth RBI.

UCF added a valuable insurance run in the fifth when freshman Maddy Schroeder used her speed to reach on an infield single to third base. Schroeder was sacrificed over to second and scored easily on Land's RBI double down the right field line. Land finished the game 2-3 with a run scored and an RBI.

Jacksonville had a chance in the top of the seventh inning with runners at first and third with just one out. However, Schmidt made a very heads up play on a chopper back to the mound and easily threw out the runner breaking for home. Schmidt then induced a ground ball out to first base to end the game and earn her second victory of the season.

Game Two - Jacksonville 3, UCF 2 - Box Score

Once again, UCF rallied from a deficit to tie the game, only this time they could not reclaim the lead as they did earlier in the day against Seton Hall as they were defeated by Jacksonville 3-2. The Knights had multiple chances to break the game open with nine hits, but they stranded eight runners on base.

Junior Alex Hartshorn (Tampa, Fla.) made her third start of the season but just her first appearance since Feb. 17. Hartshorn made the most of her opportunity by keeping Dolphins' hitters continuously off-balance with her mixture of drop balls, curves and changeups. The Knights' No. 3 starter was forcing weak contact throughout the evening until she allowed a two-out, two-run home run to center in the fifth to give the Dolphins a one-run lead.

"Alex is very good at keeping batters off-balance. She doesn't throw as hard as Mackenzie or Ali, but she has a very nice drop ball, probably the best on the team, and a good change up. Her change up was actually a pretty pitch, low and outside, but the hitter just made a great adjustment and was able to put a good swing on it and knock it out of the park," Gillispie said.

The Black and Gold took a 1-0 lead in the third thanks to some very heady base running by senior Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.). After reaching on a fielding error, Swan was taking off for second as lead-off hitter Kahley Novak (Clermont, Fla.) hit a slow grounder to third. Novak beat the throw using her great speed and Swan wisely never broke stride, rounded second and slide safely into third taking two bases on a ball that never left the infield. Junior Danielle Brewer then knocked Swan in with an RBI groundout.

Facing another one-run deficit, the Knights managed to tie the game in the sixth inning. Senior Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) was plunked for a team-highest fourth time this season. The next hitter, junior Alena Murgatroyd (Lancaster, Calif.), who played for the first time since missing five games with a concussion, ripped a two-out double into left that scored Perez all the way from first and tied the game.

The Dolphins quickly bounced back in the seventh. After a walk and a fielder's choice left two on with none out, Luers-Gillispie went to her bullpen and brought game-one starter Schmidt back into the game. Schmidt quickly got two outs and appeared close to getting out of the inning unscathed. However, Schmidt uncorked a wild pitch that plated the game-winning run for the Dolphins. The run was charged to Hartshorn and she picked up her second loss of the season.

The Knights continue action at the UCF & Courtyard by Marriott Invitational on Saturday with another doubleheader against Florida Gulf Coast at 1:30 p.m. following by the night cap game with Eastern Michigan at 6 p.m. UCF fans can follow all the tournament action here, on UCF All-Access, UCFAthletics.com Gametracker as well as www.twitter.com/UCF_Softball.

The Black and Gold have 28 home games remaining at the UCF Softball Complex, with season tickets for the 2012 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.