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Softball drops two close matchups to No. 18 Bulldogs, No. 23 Ducks

by Ryan Ladika
  • Game 1
  • Game 2
Box Score

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – Matching up against its first two ranked opponents of the 2024 campaign, the UCF softball team dropped a pair of close games against the No. 18 Mississippi State Bulldogs and the No. 23 Oregon Ducks by 2-1 and 4-3 final scores, respectively, to open play at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

The two contests represented the Knights’ first ranked matchups of the new campaign after the Black and Gold (6-4) saw three of their five games, including all three scheduled contests against ranked foes, canceled at the 2024 Shriners Children’s Clearwater Invitational. Following their two Thursday defeats, each of the Knights’ first four losses has come by a single run.

UCF was up to the challenge in the circle provided by its ranked competition, enjoying a handful of strong pitching performances by Kaitlyn Felton and Sarah Willis against Mississippi State (10-1) to open the day’s action, and senior tandem of Angelina DeVoe and Grace Jewell against the Ducks (7-6) in the nightcap.

Felton, making her fourth start of the young slate, impressed with her fourth straight outing of at least four innings pitched against Mississippi State. The junior right-hander yielded only two runs accompanied by a season-high five strikeouts, allowing just two runs to finish with three or fewer given up in each of her first four appearances.

Fellow right-hander Sarah Willis was called upon in relief and answered with three spotless frames, allowing just three hits to lower her ERA to a team-best 1.24 through five appearances, including a trio of starts.

The Knights’ offense was stymied for much of the contest by Bulldogs starter Aspen Wesley, who held UCF in check until the bottom of the sixth inning when the squad mustered its lone tally of the contest. Freshman infielder Sierra Humphreys reached base safely with a one-out bunt single back to Wesley and later stole second base with one out.

Center fielder Johneisha Rowe, who after 10 games represents the Knights’ leading hitter with a .500 average (15-for-30) came through with a single back up the middle that plated Humphreys and halved the Bulldogs’ two-run advantage.

Not unlike the Knights’ Clearwater Invitational opener last weekend, UCF responded to a 2-1 loss with a two-run top of the first inning offensively in its next game. The Black and Gold plated a pair in the first frame against the Ducks on the strength of a Sona Halajian two-run single to left field, marking her first two RBI since transferring to UCF from California last summer.

Oregon drew up an immediate answer against Knights southpaw Ava Justman, called upon by head coach Cindy Ball-Malone to make her first start of the season. The Ducks scored a trio of runs in the bottom of the first and added one more tally in the third against fellow left-hander Angelina DeVoe.

UCF clawed back to within one run, at 4-3, with a two-out RBI single off the bat of sophomore infielder Aubrey Evans in the top of the fifth inning, and later threatened by loading the bases with one out in the top of the seventh inning, but was unable to scratch across the equalizer.

Jewell gave the Knights a chance with her strongest appearance of the season thus far in the circle, yielding only two hits and two walks in three spotless innings in relief of DeVoe.


The Knights have another chance against a ranked opponent Friday evening, when they clash with the No. 8 Missouri Tigers at 8:30 p.m. ET to open play in day two of the tournament. UCF will then match up with the Oregon State Beavers following their tilt with the Tigers at 11:30 p.m. ET.

All games during the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic will be streamed exclusively on FloSoftball.


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