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Ball-Malone Earns 200th UCF Win in Softball's 8-5 Comeback over Texas Tech

by Ryan Ladika

Lubbock, Texas – In clinching head coach Cindy Ball-Malone’s 200th win at the helm of the UCF softball team, the Knights certainly had a flair for the dramatic.

“They definitely made the most of the challenge,” Ball-Malone said.

Staring up at an early 4-0 deficit, the Black and Gold sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the fourth, rattling off seven hits and scoring six times to help clinch Ball-Malone’s milestone victory by an 8-5 decision and snap the team’s seven-game losing streak to kick off its three-game road series against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

“That was huge, (Sierra Humphreys) went down 0-2 and then came back with the big hit,” Ball-Malone continued. “Loading the bases gave a perfect opportunity for Kennedy Searcy to come in and get a pinch hit like she did, work the count and see some pitches.”

On the heels of a one-out Jada Cody single that later resulted in a runner on second and two outs, right fielder Chloe Evans sparked the Knights’ third comeback win this season with a single to center field, trimming the Red Raiders’ lead to just three runs.

Second baseman Aubrey Evans came through in the moments immediately after, doubling Chloe home with a well-placed ball in the right-center field gap and pulling her squad to within two runs.

Humphreys, earning the start at third base in the series-opener, immediately got the last two scores back via her second collegiate home run over the left field wall, a long ball that erased the last of Texas Tech’s 4-0 advantage.

“It was definitely like a fever dream,” Humphreys said with a smile. “Going to home plate, doing (our ‘siu’ celebration), I was just blacked out. I was focusing on my team; I didn’t even realize I was part of this world.”

UCF wasn’t finished. Shannon Doherty, Samantha Rey and Stormy Kotzelnick kept the line moving, each reaching base to load the bases before Ball-Malone opted for Searcy to take an at-bat off the bench.

The move paid immediate dividends. The Jacksonville, Florida, native went up for a riseball and sent it just short of the right field wall, one-hopping the fence and plating two more scores to give the Knights their first lead of the evening, 6-4.

“I’ve been working really hard and preparing myself for moments like these,” Searcy said. “It’s a little bit of a change from what I’m used to, going in for pinch hits. It came up on me, and I just thought I had to stick to my routine, take my breaths, breathe and realize I’m ready for this moment. I just went in there confidently and knew what I had to do. I got the job done and made my team proud.”

The contributions of Grace Jewell and Katelyn Cochran in relief proved instrumental in preserving UCF’s midgame rally, with the pair combining for five innings of one-run ball.

Jewell came on in the bottom of the third following back-to-back Red Raiders singles to lead off the frame, and pulled off the escape act to keep Texas Tech off the scoreboard.

The senior then limited the home team’s damage in the home half of the fourth inning to just one run, stranded one in a scoreless fifth and again left one Red Raider on base in a sixth inning that included her fourth strikeout of the evening.

Cochran’s number was called to finish the game with one out in the seventh, and she did so without issue, inducing a flyout to right field and a pop up to Doherty at first base to clinch her first collegiate save.

Jewell, meanwhile, logged her longest appearance of the season in spinning 4.1 innings, adding a season-high four strikeouts without allowing an earned run.

“Sarah had some unfortunate situations (in the first inning) when we were a little bit out of position defensively,” Ball-Malone explained. “One play here or there, we get out of that inning, she was pitching better than it showed. For Grace to come in and give us four solid innings, they’re a great hitting team. Katelyn Cochran, with the confidence that she’s built from last weekend, getting those last two outs for us was awesome.”

Designated player/outfielder Savannah Adams came through with a bit of insurance in the top of the seventh inning as well, slugging her first home run of the spring off the bench and the Knights’ second two-run shot of the evening to widen UCF’s advantage to 8-5.

“Offense is contagious,” Humphreys continued. “Once somebody does something, everybody follows. We have a very connected team, so I feel like once one person does it, everyone’s just like, ‘Okay, let’s do it. Jump on the train.’”


UCF looks to build upon the momentum it created Thursday night in game two against the Red Raiders Friday. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. ET from Rocky Johnson Field, and the game will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.


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