10 Knights Pick Up All-Conference Honors

ORLANDO – The American Athletic Conference announced its softball postseason awards on Wednesday, with 10 Knights being recognized for their efforts on the diamond in 2021.
Jada Cody, Jazmine Esparza, Denali Schapapcher and Alea White all took home First Team All-Conference honors, while Shannon Doherty, Kyra Klarkowski, Gianna Mancha and Karissa Ornelas were named to the Second Team.
Cody, Juliana Wilson and Kennedy Searcy received All-Rookie Team Laurels.
UCF led all teams with eight total players chosen (four players on the first time) to the first and second all-conference teams with Wichita State just behind at seven selections and four first-team recipients.
"I think this conference is stacked with awesome players, so it's a grind, day in and day out, but our four first team members had amazing years both in and out of conference," said head coach Cindy Ball-Malone. "It was well-deserved and I'm excited to see them bring their play into the conference tournament this weekend."
A fifth-year senior, Esparza picks up her first All-Conference nod with the first team honor. Esparza led the offensive charge for the Knights in 2021, posting a team-high .378 batting average to go along with seven home runs and 15 doubles, which currently leads the conference and is good for 20th in the nation.
"I think Jazmine really turned it on last year when we put her in the nine hole in the lineup. Pitchers were coming after her and attacking her, which really gave her the opportunity to swing freely and I think that's when she really came into her own and started putting up these power numbers and high RBI numbers. It's been awesome to see her using her experience and training to compete at key moments in the game."
In her first full season at the collegiate level, Cody was nothing short of electric. Playing primarily third base but also checking in at catcher, Cody owns a solid .333 batting average as well as a team-high 55 hits. Cody even notched seven long balls and is second on the team with 10 doubles.
"Jada is a special human being and athlete. She really is a five-tool player. We talk about her offense, but defensively, you could put her anywhere and feel comfortable that she is going to get the job done. Her ability to hit for power and hit runners in, steal a base when you need her to, it puts her in the conference most valuable player discussion, and I think it will be like that her entire career."
One of the greatest to ever toe the rubber at UCF, White caps off her career with the First Team honor after posting a career-best 1.56 ERA in 2021. A three-time conference pitcher of the week this season, the fifth-year senior racked up more strikeouts (140) than hits allowed (122). At 95 career wins, she is UCF's all-time winningest pitcher.
"Everyone knows who Alea is and she still gets outs. She gets swings and misses and fools the opposition because nobody can say what her best pitch is. Her ability to throw north, south, east and west as well as mix speeds has been tremendous this year and that will carry her through postseason."
Primarily batting near the top of the UCF lineup, Schappacher's .338 batting average this season has her currently at second place all-time in career batting average at UCF (.384, Stephanie Best, 2002-05). The First Team honor marks the second of Schappacher's career as she also earned the distinction following her freshman 2018 campaign. Schappacher is a threat on the base paths as well, notching 14 stolen bases in 15 attempts, good for second on the team.
"Denali's ability to get on base and be an instant steal threat are things that have helped us win big ball games since her freshman season. Her ability to lay down a bunt and mess with the defense's emotions, and then turn around and swing away the next at-bat, she forces the defense to play her differently every at-bat."

Mancha was named NFCA D1 National Player of the Year earlier this season after throwing a three-hit shutout and striking out nine to help UCF take down then No. 2 Arizona. Mancha is a two-time conference player of the week and even threw a no-hitter against AAC opponent Memphis on April 23
"As great a pitcher as Alea is, she is able to compete at her best because Gianna Mancha is right there with her. Gianna has had some great wins and exciting performances this season."
As a three-year team captain, Klarkowski has been the Knights' lockdown center fielder since day one as she is UCF's all-time leader with 18 outfield assists. Also posting a career-year at the dish, Klarkowski posted a .333 batting average in 2021.
"This has been the best offensive season in Kyra's career. She has always been a defensive rock for us, one of the best outfielders in the nation, so to bring her bat to the table now is huge."
An all-around threat with the bat in her hands, Doherty is tied for the lead at UCF in home runs and is sixth on the team with a .321 average. Her 35 RBIs are good for third place among all Knights this season.
"Shannon puts so much effort into her softball game and everything around it. Nobody is going to outwork Shannon Doherty, which is why we always have so much faith in her when the game is on the line."
A rock behind the plate, Ornelas can also get it done with the bat in her hands. In 2021, Ornelas hit over .300 to go along with nine extra base hits. On March 11 against FIU, Ornelas threw out three baserunners attempting to steal, tying a UCF single-game record.
"Karissa is that silent thunder. She has great numbers and I truly think she is one of the greatest clutch hitters in our program's history."

Searcy leads all Knights with 17 stolen bases and is top 10 on the team in both average (.321) and total bases (52). The first-year Knight also registered two long balls earlier this season before her season was cur short due to injury.
"Kennedy is a real triple threat. She can lay down a bunt, hit for power, and then she has a chance to set the all-time stolen bases record here at UCF before her career is over with. Also, to see how sound she is on defense is amazing. This was well-deserved for Kennedy.
Playing a mix of outfield and catcher, and even checking in at shortstop, Wilson was dangerous with a bat in her hand in 2021, crushing eight home runs, good for third on the team, while also hitting at an efficient .286 clip.
"Juliana is such a power threat. She really turned it on offensively since we started conference play, and, once we figure out her defensive home, that is going to push her game to the next level. Juliana and Jada may only be wrapping up their first full years, but they play like they are upper classmen."
The Knights will next turn their attention to the AAC championship tournament, which will take place from May 13-15 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Knights, who were the 2015 American tournament champions, also finished as the event runner-up in 2014. They will collide with East Carolina, whom UCF swept in four games in Greenville on April 9-11, in the tournament's opening game on May 13 at 12 p.m. (ET) on ESPN+.
The full list of All-Conference Awards is as follows:
American Player of the Year
Sydney McKinney, Wichita State
American Defensive Player of the Year
Kaylee Huecker, Wichita State
American Pitcher of the Year
Georgina Corrick, USF (unanimous)
American Rookie of the Year
Addison Barnard, Wichita State
American Coaching Staff of the Year
Wichita State (unanimous)
All-Conference First Team
P – Alea White, UCF
P – Georgina Corrick, USF (unanimous)
C – Madison Perrigan, Wichita State
1B – Jasmine Esparza, UCF
2B – Kylie Norwood, Tulsa
3B – Jada Cody, UCF
3B – Sarah Queen, Houston
SS – Sydney McKinney, Wichita State
OF – Denali Schappacher, UCF
OF – AnaMarie Bruni, USF
OF – Addison Barnard, Wichita State
DP/U/P – Chenise Delce, Tulsa
DP/U/Non-P – Neleigh Herring, Wichita State
All-Conference Second Team
P – Gianna Mancha, UCF
P – Bailey Lange, Wichita State
C – Karissa Ornelas, UCF
IF – Rachel McCollum, East Carolina
IF – Alyssa Dean, Memphis
IF – Megan Pierro, USF
IF – Alexis Perry, Tulsa
IF – Ryleigh Buck, Wichita State
OF – Kyra Klarkowski, UCF
OF – Lindsey Stewart-Vaughn, Houston
OF – Alexis Johns, USF
OF – Bailee Nickerson, Wichita State
DP/U/Non-P – Shannon Doherty, UCF
All-Rookie Team
IF – Jada Cody, UCF (unanimous)
IF – Imani Edwards, Tulsa
OF – Kennedy Searcy, UCF
OF/C – Juliana Wilson, UCF
OF – Haley Morgan, Tulsa
OF – Addison Barnard, Wichita State (unanimous)