Knights Punch Ticket to AAC Championship Game

TULSA, Oklahoma – UCF Softball is moving on to the American Athletic Conference Championship game for the first time since 2015 as the Knights (39-16-1) took down South Florida (29-17) in the AAC semifinal game at the Collins Family Softball Complex in Tulsa, Oklahoma by a score of 3-2 on Friday.
"There's lots of emotions, but it's crazy how you get to this point and you feel so steady and calm because our girls are in such a good mindset. They're awesome," said head coach Cindy Ball-Malone.
"Both Alea [White] and Gianna [Mancha] give us the opportunity to compete with anybody, and today it was Gianna's turn to finish it and she was lights out… That gives us a lot of confidence."
The Knights will make their third appearance in an AAC championship game. Their last time out came in 2015, when UCF took down Tulsa, 1-0 to secure their first ever AAC tournament title. In 2014, UCF lost 3-2 to Louisville in the league championship.
In total, the Knights have won three conference tournament titles in program history. In 2005, as a part of the ASUN conference, the Knights beat Troy, 3-1 to secure their first conference title. Three years later in 2008, the Knights did it again, this time capturing the C-USA title following a 4-2 win over Houston. The Knights' last conference championship win came in the aforementioned 2015 season.
The Knights are set to do battle with No. 1 seed Wichita State on Saturday, May 15 in the championship game. Wichita State won the regular season conference title for the first time in program history after posting an 18-5-1 record in league play. The Shockers, who checked in at No. 25 in the latest NFCA/USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll and received a first round bye in the tournament, defeated Tulsa, 9-4 on Friday to secure their spot in the championship game.
The Knights faced Wichita State four times at the UCF Softball Complex from April 16-18. The Knights dropped three and tied once.
Friday's semifinal win over South Florida was anything but easy. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first, the Bulls tied it up in the third inning.
UCF catcher Karissa Ornelas gave the Knights the lead in the fourth, smacking her career-high fifth home run of the season to give the Black and Gold the 3-2 lead, and Knights' reliever Gianna Mancha (14-5) would take over from there.
Mancha took over for Alea White when she came into the game with the 3-2 lead to start the bottom of the fourth. Mancha was lights out, striking out six straight (seven total) and allowing just one hit to silence the Bull's lineup and punch the Knights' ticket to the championship game.
UCF right fielder Denali Schappacher was 2-for-3 at the plate to finish the day as the only UCF player with multiple hits as the Knights managed five off of Corrick (22-7). She allowed five hits and only one earned run in the complete-game outing.
"I knew I had to have Alea's back and finish it out for the team," said Mancha. "I trusted the team behind me and I just knew I had to get it done. We have a lot of confidence and we're not going down without a fight."

Key Moments

  • The Knights started the game off with back-to-back singles and a South Florida throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt allowed the runners to score, putting the Knights up 2-0 early.
  • Bulls' left fielder Brooke Hartman hit a solo home run in the bottom of the second to cut their deficit in half, making it a 2-1 game.
  • South Florida tied it up at two in the bottom of the third courtesy of an RBI double off the bat of shortstop Kyndall Williams.
  • UCF backstop Karissa Ornelas hit a solo home run in the top of the fourth to give the Black and Gold the 3-2 lead.
  • Gianna Mancha came into relief in the fourth inning and struck out the side for two innings straight. She pitched four scoreless innings in total to secure UCF's 3-2 win.


  • With the win, the Knights secured an appearance in their third AAC Tournament championship game in program history (2014, 2015 and 2021).
  • Now at 39 wins, this is most wins UCF had in a season since 2015.
  • Gianna Mancha's six straight strikeouts from innings four through five mark the most consecutive strikeouts from a UCF pitcher this season.

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