Four Knights Claim NFCA All-Region Honors

NFCA All-Region Press Release

ORLANDO – The postseason accolades continue to pour in for the Knights as Alea White, Jazmine Esparza, Gianna Mancha and Jada Cody have each earned Mideast All-Region honors, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced on Thursday.

The awards honor softball student-athletes from the NFCA's 10 regions with first, second and third-team selections. NFCA member head coaches from each respective region voted on the teams, and all student-athletes now become eligible for the 2021 NFCA Division I All-America squads.

The 2021 NFCA Division I All-America teams will be announced on Wednesday, June 2.

"The diversity and utility of our team allows us to really shine at multiple positions," said head coach Cindy Ball-Malone. "The competition within our team has allowed individual players to excel at the highest level and that is why they are able to be in a position to earn these accomplishments."

White earns her third consecutive First Team All-Region nod (2018, 2019, and 2021), becoming the first player in UCF program history to accomplish the feat.

One of the greatest to ever toe the rubber at UCF, White has posted a 1.82 ERA in 2021. An American Athletic Conference First Team honoree, White was a three-time conference pitcher of the week throughout the season, and the fifth-year senior has racked up more strikeouts (151) than hits allowed (136). At 97 career wins, she is UCF's all-time winningest pitcher.

"Alea is a talented athlete and a great pitcher, but her work ethic is why she is able to be consistent year-in and year-out," said Ball-Malone. "It's an incredible accomplishment to earn this award three years in a row and it speaks volumes to the type of competitor that Alea is."

A fifth-year senior, Esparza picks up her first all-region nod with the second team selection. Also receiving First Team All-Conference honors on May 12 for the first time in her career, Esparza has led the offensive charge for the Knights in 2021, posting a team-high .361 batting average to go along with nine home runs and 15 doubles, which currently leads the conference and is good for 23rd in the nation.

"Jaz has had great seasons in certain areas in the past, but this year, she has really excelled in multiple areas at once. Her power numbers, average and RBI numbers have been really important for us this year, and she also comes up in clutch moments, putting runs up when we need them most," said Ball-Malone.

In her first full season at the collegiate level, Cody was nothing short of consistent. Picking up third team all-region laurels, Cody has played primarily third base but has also checked in at catcher for the Knights this season. Cody owns a solid .324 batting average as well as a team-high 56 hits and 43 runs scored. Cody has notched seven long balls and is second on the team with 10 doubles. She was also named First Team All-AAC on May 12.

"Jada is a true five-tool player. Her ability to compete in any facet of the game is what helps us," said Ball-Malone. "Even if she doesn't get a hit or score a run, she still has an impact in some way in any given game. That shows who she is going to be for the next three or four more years."

Rounding things out, Mancha was named to the Mideast third team after a dominant year in the circle. Mancha was the NFCA D1 National Player of the Week earlier this season after throwing a three-hit shutout and striking out nine to help UCF take down then No. 2 Arizona. She is a two-time conference player of the week and even threw a no-hitter against AAC opponent Memphis on April 23.

"Gianna has upset some really good teams this season. Her ability to baffle hitters and get swings and misses is fun to watch and exciting," said Ball-Malone. "Adding to her pitch repertoire has helped her become super deceptive, and as we head into the NCAA Tournament, she is going to be a big factor for us."

UCF is gearing up for the NCAA Tallahassee Regional, beginning on May 21. The Knights will do battle with Auburn to open up play. The game will be broadcasted live on ESPN2.

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