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Softball Drops Series Finale against Kansas, 1-0

by Ryan Ladika

ORLANDO – The UCF softball team enjoyed a third consecutive dominant performance from its pitching staff to begin conference play, but offensive struggles sent the Knights to a 1-0 loss to the Kansas Jayhawks in the teams’ series finale at the UCF Softball Complex Sunday afternoon.

The senior tandem of Sona Halajian, Angelina DeVoe and Grace Jewell stifled Kansas (14-7-1, 1-2 Big 12) to the tune of just one hit throughout the contest, marking a season-low for the Knights (14-8, 2-1 Big 12) pitching staff and lowest game total surrendered by the Black and Gold since Sarah Willis’ perfect game against Houston April 28, 2023.

Jewell shouldered the majority the workload in the circle in what represented her strongest outing of the spring. The right-hander inherited a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fourth inning, and with two outs, calmly induced a pop up to her shortop, Jasmine Williams, to escape the threat unscathed.

“I’ve been in that situation a bunch of times, so it wasn’t anything to stress about,” Jewell said. “All I had to do was bring my best and get my team back into the dugout as fast as I can.”

After working around the Jayhawks’ traffic on the basepaths in the fourth, Jewell would retire each of the next nine hitters she faced, throwing a cumulative 3.1 perfect frames in relief, marking a season-high in innings pitched for the Chesapeake, Virginia, native.

“When Angelina was coming out, she told me to just attack the batters, and that’s what I did,” Jewell continued. “All I have to do is get groundouts for my team so they can get back into the dugout. I don’t have to strike people out, I have an amazing defense behind me; they’ll get the outs.”

She also notched her third appearance of the season with at least three innings pitched, and her longest outing since throwing five scoreless frames in relief of Kaitlyn Felton in the Knights’ 6-3 win at Memphis May 6, 2023.

The Black and Gold enjoyed another strong defensive effort in support of the team’s pitching performance as well, recording their 21st game of their first 22 this season committing one or fewer errors. UCF entered the series with a .983 fielding percentage, good for second-best in the Big 12 and sixth in the nation.

After throwing out a Jayhawks runner attempting to go first-to-third in the series’ second game Saturday, Chloe Evans recorded an outfield assist for the second straight game and the third this season.

With a runner on second and one out in the top of the second inning, Halajian induced a line drive to Williams at shortstop, whose throw attempting to double off the Kansas runner at second was a bit high for second baseman Aubrey Evans.

Chloe ran the ball down near the right field corner and sent a perfect one-hop throw to freshman catcher Kiley Strott, who applied the tag in time to keep the Jayhawks off the scoreboard.

In total, five UCF pitchers recorded a sterling 1.27 ERA (4 ER) in 22 innings and two complete games throughout the weekend series, striking out 14 and limiting Kansas to a .208 batting average-against.

“It’s huge for our program to get the series win,” said head coach Cindy Ball-Malone. “In order for us to continue to keep winning in this conference, we have to make adjustments, we can’t be doing the same thing the entire game. Our pitchers gave us a shot to (sweep the series). That’s going to be the big thing, we have to make those adjustments offensively, because you can’t win without scoring a run.”


The Knights return to a familiar place for their first Big 12 road trip next weekend, making the trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the second straight season for a three-game set against the No. 4 Oklahoma State Cowgirls. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, 2 p.m. ET and 12 p.m. ET Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, and all three games will be streamed on ESPN+.


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