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Softball Earns First Shutout in 5-0 Win over Seattle

by Ryan Ladika

ORLANDO – In the most tense moments on the field, the little things often make the biggest difference.

Mired in a bases-loaded, none-out pickle in the top of the third inning Friday night, transfer utility player Stormy Kotzelnick delivered a brief but impactful message to the UCF softball team’s starting pitcher, Kaitlyn Felton.

“Stormy looked at me and said, ‘You love this. You’re built for this, you do this all the time in practice. You love this,’” Felton recalled with a smile. “I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.”

Felton was indeed built for the moment, walking the tightrope to escape unscathed, with help from a double play that almost ended with three outs turned by third baseman Jada Cody, a pivotal moment in the Knights’ (3-0) 5-0 win over the Seattle Redhawks (1-1) at the UCF Softball Complex.

Cody snared a sinking line drive, recorded the force out at third to double off Seattle infielder Mikee Morris and nearly got her throw over to first baseman Shannon Doherty in time for a possible third out. Riding the sudden burst of momentum, Felton fanned Redhawks catcher Ava Sin later in the frame to keep Seattle off the scoreboard.

“I was talking to Jada the whole time she was out there, I said, ‘Jada, me and you,’” Felton added. “The second it was hit, I said, ‘That’s a low line drive, Jada’s got that.’ The second Stormy reminded me this is what I love doing, I love coming in in tough situations, it just slowed everything down.”

Felton’s stellar start, a 6.1-inning effort that marked the seventh time in her two-plus-year career the Valrico, Florida, native has thrown at least six frames, helped boost the Knights to their first 3-0 start to a season since the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign.

The right-hander demonstrated poise in avoiding the big inning throughout the evening, holding Seattle scoreless despite yielding eight hits and one walk in her first start of the season. Not unlike the Knights’ two season-opening contests Thursday, a late offensive surge provided integral support for their pitcher at the right time as well.

Led by freshman infielder Sierra Humphreys’ 2-for-3 showing that included the Corona, California native’s first career double and first two RBI, UCF plated four of its five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning before tacking on one more in the fifth.

Humphreys’ double paved way for Doherty and Chloe Evans, who reached via a fielder’s choice and single, respectively, to score, before Kennedy Searcy and Savannah Adams both added RBI singles to bolster UCF’s advantage.

Doherty later cracked her first two-bagger of the spring in the fifth, plating Aubrey Evans who had doubled in front of her. With the Knights’ five Friday runs, the group has outscored its opposition by an aggregate 24 runs to three through its first three games, including two 10-hit games and 28 total hits in that span.

“Steady, gutsy and just an all-around ballplayer,” head coach Cindy Ball-Malone said of Humphreys. “That’s who she was when I recruited her, and she’s doing exactly what she said she was going to do when she got here.”

When Felton worked into another jam in the top of the seventh, Ball-Malone called upon transfer southpaw Ava Justman to pick up her teammate.

The Northridge, California, native did just that, recording a force out at home plate and a game-ending pop up to Aubrey Evans at shortstop to lock down her first career save in her Knights debut.

“Right as I got off, I said, ‘Ava, you just have to throw it and let your defense work,’” Felton said. “She’s just great. She’s one of the most energetic people, I remember playing against her my freshman year. I just love her, I know she’s going to bring the energy out there.”


The Knights will face off against the UConn Huskies once more in the Black and Gold Tournament Saturday evening. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.


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