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Softball Sweeps Season-Opening Twin-Bill against UConn, Howard

by Ryan Ladika
  • Game 1
  • Game 2
Box Score

ORLANDO – Team 23 brought high expectations into its first season as a member of the Big 12 Conference, and throughout its season-opening twin bill Thursday night, the Knights put on display the all-around depth and potential they plan to use to achieve their goals.

Spearheaded by an explosive outburst at the plate and dominant efforts in the circle in support, the UCF softball team toppled the visiting Howard Bison and UConn Huskies by 10-2 and 9-1 respective final scores to open the group’s annual Black & Gold Classic at the UCF Softball Complex.

“We’re gritty, and it showed. We have a lot of seniority, and we were able to show that we have a lot of poise on the field and in the box,” said right fielder Chloe Evans. “Continuing to correct our mistakes, making those adjustments in the box and protecting the queen, we know we have a role to play and we have to get the job done.”

Led by Evans and utility players Kennedy Searcy and Jada Cody, the Knights (2-0) enjoyed a prolific evening at the plate, combining for 19 runs on 18 hits including three home runs between their two victories.

Evans, Searcy and Cody each drilled their respective first home runs of the season, with Evans’ coming in the second inning of UCF’s opener against Howard (1-1), and Searcy and Cody both leaving the yard in the nightcap against the Huskies (0-2).

Cody’s home run moved the fifth-year California native a bit higher in UCF lore, as her fifth-inning solo shot marked the 33rd of her career, tied for the second-most in a career in program history with Jania Shinhoster.

“This year is going to have a lot of highlights like that,” said head coach Cindy Ball-Malone of Cody. “It was great to see her swing easy and free and figure some things out. She’s worked hard for a lot of years, so to see her accomplish what she’s done here has been pretty remarkable.”

The squad’s seniority was present throughout the evening in the circle as well, as all four Knights pitchers utilized by Ball-Malone throughout the twin-bill are competing in their senior seasons in Sarah Willis, Grace Jewell, Angelina DeVoe and Sona Halajian.

Halajian, making her Knights debut after transferring from Cal last summer, spun a perfect top of the first in the Knights’ opener against Howard before running into trouble in the second.

DeVoe was called upon in relief by Ball-Malone and immediately picked up her teammate, escaping a bases-loaded situation with help from a highlight-reel unassisted double play by first baseman Shannon Doherty.

“That was awesome,” DeVoe said of Doherty’s play. “When she tagged first base, she was looking for a triple play, and it was great because we work on things like that at practice all the time, looking for the next one. It was a good feeling.”

In retiring all 11 hitters she faced, DeVoe’s four spotless frames represented the second-longest appearance of her career, only to the five innings of one-hit ball she tossed against the then-No. 16 Duke Blue Devils during the Clearwater Invitational Feb. 18, 2023.

Evans’ four RBI and five total bases in the opener provided a burst at the plate in support of DeVoe, aided by center fielder Johneisha Rowe’s 3-for-3 evening, marking her ninth career three-hit game, accompanied by a trio of runs scored.

“I liked how we stayed composed,” Ball-Malone continued. “We scored three runs in the first inning, but in the circle we started off a little slow. I appreciated how under control it felt, and once we had a little bloop and blast and got the game going, it looked like Knights softball.”

Searcy and Cody provided the fireworks in UCF’s win over UConn, accompanied by transfer utility player Stormy Kotzelnick, who drove in a pair of runs and scored once in a 1-for-3 evening.

The offensive exploits aided senior Sarah Willis in her 2024 debut, yielding only one run on three hits in her 4.2 innings. She struck out seven as well before fellow senior right-hander Grace Jewell slammed the door with a strikeout of the lone batter she faced in collecting her fourth career save.

“It’s amazing for us, we’ve been working really hard and we see the results,” Searcy said. “We’ve been playing against each other for so long, and we finally get to play against some other competition and see what we really are made of this year, and it’s really special.”

Not to be overlooked, the Knights’ freshman class, ranked No. 16 in the nation on National Signing Day in November 2022, made an early mark in both wins. Samantha Delhoyo displayed confidence as a pinch-runner, scoring the Knights’ game-tying run from first base in the fourth inning on a Huskies error, representing one of her first two collegiate runs scored.

Sierra Humphreys impressed in her first start at shortstop in the nightcap, making a trio of surehanded putouts in the field and collecting her first collegiate hit, a bunt single in the fifth inning.

Samantha Rey made her collegiate debut as pinch-runner and scored the final tally of UCF’s eight-run win over the Huskies, and Kiley Strott also saw time behind the plate in both games, adding her first collegiate RBI on a groundout in the fourth inning against Howard.

“It really shows our depth, and I love that more than anything, that if someone isn’t in the game, we’ve got something good in the next person,” Evans added.


The Knights continue play in the Black & Gold Classic with a Friday evening matchup against the Seattle Redhawks. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. from the UCF Softball Complex and will be streamed on ESPN+.


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