Website Photo TemplateWebsite Photo Template

Softball Concludes First Homestand with 7-5 Win over Liberty

by Ryan Ladika

ORLANDO – At the tail end of its 5-1 start to the 2024 slate, the UCF softball team’s offensive efforts are gaining traction just in time for one of the biggest marquee tournaments in the sport.

The Knights toppled the visiting Liberty Flames by a 7-5 final score at the UCF Softball Complex Wednesday night, marking the second straight game and the fourth time in six contests UCF has plated at least seven markers. The winning effort also guaranteed the Knights would stay perfect against Liberty, emerging victorious for the seventh time in seven all-time meetings between the two programs.

“I like how we came out offensively, we were disciplined and stuck to our plan. Two big innings made the difference,” head coach Cindy Ball-Malone said. “Drawing the walks like we did, that’s usually our game. We don’t have to swing so early in counts because we’re good with two strikes. There was a lot of contribution.”

The Knights (5-1) bested the Flames (1-5) on the strength of a pair of crooked numbers at the plate, snatching the momentum early with a four-run first inning before building their lead with three more runs in the fifth. A first-inning one-out walk by transfer utility player Stormy Kotzelnick represented the first of five consecutive Knights to reach base safely, and a pair of wild pitches uncorked by Liberty starter Katie Love allowed UCF’s first two runs to score.

First baseman Shannon Doherty strode to the dish with the chance to add on, looking out at Chloe Evans and Kennedy Searcy on second and third with one out. The veteran infielder dumped a single into right field just beyond the reach of the Liberty second baseman, plating both teammates and claiming sole possession of fifth place on the UCF all-time career RBI list with 132, passing Jazmine Esparza’s 131.

“I don’t really look at stats, but it is an honor to be named with those names,” Doherty said. “It’s an honor to be recognized with them. ‘Jaz’ has been such an intricate part of this culture, and honestly that first team that I played on, that team really set the building blocks of our culture and what this program has become. They left it better than they found it, and now I’m trying to leave this place better than I found it.”

A big offensive night by fellow fifth year Jada Cody aided the Knights in later adding on, as her leadoff fifth-inning double sparked the squad’s three-run frame, aided by a Kotzelnick RBI groundout and an Evans RBI double.

Cody’s first two-bagger of the season in her second multi-hit game this spring also represented the 43rd of her career, tying Esparza for second-most on the UCF all-time list. The RBI knock also followed a two-out, second-inning triple, the ninth of her career, that broke a tie with right fielder Chloe Evans and pushed the Murrieta, California, native into a share of fifth place on the all-time list with Denali Schappacher.

The utility player also notched her 10th career multi-extra-base hit game in the Knights’ fifth win of the season, pushing her career extra-base hit total to 85 in helping lead the Knights to their third 5-1 start to a season since the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign.

“I’ve been working a lot with Coach Becca and Coach Bear with my offense,” Cody said. “My defense has been there, but my offense was struggling a little bit in the first week. I’ve been really working on that and making little adjustments, and just being myself and playing free.”

Right-hander Kaitlyn Felton, making her second start of the season, again demonstrated her resolve in limiting the damage in tight spots. The Valrico, Florida, native escaped a bases-loaded threat unscathed in the top of the first inning and spun a perfect second before Liberty tagged her for a pair of runs in the third and fourth innings.

Angelina DeVoe, fresh off a pair of perfect four-inning outings to begin her season, Grace Jewell and Sarah Willis combined to record the final nine outs of the contest, with Willis locking down her first save of the season, her second as a Knight and the fourth of her career.

“She’s getting stronger each game, and they’re a good-hitting team,” Ball-Malone said of Felton. “She did a great job starting us off, and we always knew we were probably going to have to go two or three (relievers in) because that team is a good-hitting team.”


The Knights hit the road for the first time in 2024, taking I-4 west to partake in the 2024 Shriners Children’s Clearwater Invitational throughout the upcoming weekend. UCF will square off against five opponents in three days, including three ranked foes in No. 14 Kentucky, No. 22 Northwestern and No. 19 UCLA.

The Black and Gold will begin play in Clearwater with a Friday twin-bill against the North Carolina Tar Heels at 2 p.m. and the Wisconsin Badgers at 8 p.m. All five games throughout the weekend will be streamed on the ESPN network family, with UCF’s tournament finale against the Bruins set to be broadcast on ESPN.


Follow UCF softball on X (@UCF_Softball), Instagram (@UCF.Softball) and Facebook (/UCFSoftball).


Never miss any UCF Knights news from your favorite teams by downloading the free UCF Knights app right to your iOS or Android devices. The app provides personalized information for men’s and women’s teams, scores, schedules, loyalty programs and breaking news. Click here to download the app now.