Knights Fend Off ECU, Advance to AAC Semifianls

TULSA, Oklahoma – The Knights are moving on in the American Athletic Conference Championship Tournament after a first round victory over ECU Thursday afternoon at the Collins Family Softball Complex in Tulsa, Oklahoma. UCF (38-16-1) fended off the Pirates (16-33) to win by a score of 4-3.

"I knew that our team could do it since day one of this season," said head coach Cindy Ball-Malone. "I loved how they played under control, they kept their demeanor and their composure… I loved how we fought back and kept fighting."

With the win, the Knights move on to the AAC semifinal game for the first time since 2016. UCF last won the tournament in 2015 as the Knights took down Tulsa, 1-0, to earn both the regular season and the tournament title in the same season for the first time in program history. The win marked UCF's first conference title as a member of The American. Since then, the Knights have only won one conference tournament game. In 2016, UCF took down UConn, 3-2, in the first round of the tournament before falling to Tulsa, 4-0 in the semifinal game.

The Knights will play South Florida in the semifinal game on Friday, May 14 at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN+. The Bulls took down Memphis, 10-2, in their first-round game Thursday afternoon. Should UCF win, they will move on to play in the championship game on Saturday, May 15 at 2:00 p.m. ET. The Knights would face the winners of Wichita State and Tulsa/Houston.

The majority of the Knights' damage on Thursday came in the fourth inning. Down 2-1 headed into the inning, Denali Schappacher crushed a one-out double with the bases loaded to drive in a pair. She was followed by Jada Cody, who knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly that brought in Allyse Volpe to give the Knights a 4-2 cushion.

Cody's RBI proved to be the difference as the Pirates closed the gap to within one on a solo home run to lead off the top of the sixth, making it 4-3, but UCF starting pitcher Alea White retired the next three hitters in order to keep the Knights on top heading into the seventh.

"Coach Bear came to talk to me and said, 'What's your best pitch to hit'? We kind of talked about it for a little bit… and she said, 'If you see [the pitch] outside, go for it,' and the pitch was right outside, so it was like batting practice at that point because that was the pitch I was looking for," said Denali Schappacher. "I saw it coming off the bat and knew I was at least scoring one… It was awesome."

Down 4-3, ECU threatened in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with one out, but UCF reliever Gianna Mancha came into the game and struck out the only two batters she faced to record the final two outs of the game and pick up her fourth save of the season.

White allowed just three runs, all on solo home runs, to secure the victory and move to 20-6 on the season.

Schappacher finished the day 2-for-4 with two RBI while Volpe was 2-for-3 at the top of the Knights' lineup with two runs scored.

Key Moments

  • Allyse Volpe led off the game for the Knights with a walk and came around to score on an ECU error to give UCF the early 1-0 lead.
  • ECU right fielder Logyn Estes led off the top of the second for the Pirates with a solo home run to tie the game at one apiece.
  • Pirates' second baseman Bailey Ledvina followed with a solo shot of her own to give ECU the 2-1 lead.
  • The Knights threatened with runners on second and third and just one away in the bottom of the second, but back-to-back groundouts would end the inning and maintain the ECU 2-1 lead.
  • The Knights loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth and Denali Schappacher cranked a double to left field to give the Knights the 3-2 lead.
  • Jada Cody followed with a sacrifice-fly and an RBI to extend the UCF lead to 4-2.
  • A third solo home run from ECU in the top of the sixth would cut their deficit to 4-3.
  • ECU loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh and UCF head coach Cindy Ball-Malone called on Gianna Mancha for the save. Mancha record back-to-back punchouts to close out the game and give UCF the 4-3 victory.


  • The Knights first-round victory marked their first AAC Tournament win since 2016, when UCF took down UConn, 3-2.
  • The Knights will next face South Florida, who UCF outscored 15-6 to win the series and finish out the regular season.
  • With the win, Alea White moved to 20-6 on the year and 97-51 all-time. She has picked up 20-win or more seasons three times now in her career (2018, 2019 and 2021).
  • Gianna Mancha picked up save No. four on the season in the victory, one shy of the UCF single-season record of five, held by
  • The win over ECU marked UCF's fifth straight win over the Pirates this season as the Knights swept them on the road back in early April.
  • With the win, the Knights are 28-19 all-time against ECU with UCF winning the last 11 straight dating back to 2017.

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