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Ball-Malone Clinches 300th Career Win, Softball Takes Series at Texas Tech with 12-9 Comeback Win

by Ryan Ladika

Lubbock, Texas – Down to their last out, the Knights were never out.

“I’m going to remember this one, for sure,” said head coach Cindy Ball-Malone with a laugh.

Staring down a two-run deficit with Chloe Evans on first base and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, the UCF softball team pulled off a comeback for the ages.

Ashleigh Griffin doubled. Kennedy Searcy walked. Shannon Doherty reached on an infield single that trimmed the Texas Tech Red Raiders’ lead to one. And they weren’t nearly finished.

The Black and Gold would rally for six more scores to complete their seven-run seventh inning, clinching the series victory over Texas Tech, the 300th win of Ball-Malone’s head coaching career, and their fourth come-from-behind victory of the season, 12-9, over the Red Raiders at Rocky Johnson Field Friday night.

“That last inning especially, I know when we went up, they could have just stopped,” Ball-Malone continued. “They just kept going. Against a team like Texas Tech, they have such great hitters. You’ve got to have as many insurance runs as you can. I’m really proud of their fight and the aggressiveness that they had.”

With the bases still full of Knights on the heels of Doherty’s RBI infield single, Ball-Malone opted for her third pinch-hitter of the inning, bringing Sarah Willis into the contest to keep the offensive momentum going.

Willis came through, grounding a go-ahead two-run single back up and through the middle of the infield, propelling the Knights back out in front, 8-7, and sending her dugout into a state of euphoria.

Utility player Jada Cody was next, slugging her fourth home run of the season and 36th of her career over the left-center field wall to plate three more, and Evans, in her second plate appearance of the inning, singled Cody home to push UCF’s lead to 12-7.

Willis entered the game in the circle in the bottom half of the seventh as well, tasked by Ball-Malone with silencing a Red Raiders lineup that drew up an immediate answer with a pair of runs and was threatening for more.

After yielding a pair of singles, Willis fanned three consecutive Texas Tech hitters to lock up her squad’s 16th win of the season and second Big 12 Conference series win of the spring, in addition to Ball-Malone’s second straight milestone victory.

“It’s pretty cool to go back-to-back and win a series like that,” Ball-Malone continued. “It just reminds me how blessed I am to be a part of such a great sport, institution and athletic department. I have really amazing people around me, and I’m just one piece to all that. I love that I get to be involved with so many successful people.”

The seven-run outburst in the contest’s final frame punctuated another prolific offensive evening for the Knights, one that saw UCF crank out 12 runs on 16 hits, including six for extra bases, and three walks. The Black and Gold answered an early Texas Tech run with one of their own in the top of the second, tying the game at one run apiece via a Griffin RBI double.

The two-bagger by Griffin marked only the beginning of the redshirt-sophomore’s dominant display at the plate, as she would finish her evening with her second career three-hit game, and her first with three extra-base hits with a pair of doubles and a two-run home run.

After Texas Tech regained a 3-1 lead, Griffin came through again with her two-run shot in the top of the fourth inning. Cody and Evans gave UCF its first lead of the night an inning later, recording a run-scoring single and double, respectively, that built the Knights’ lead to 5-3.

Texas Tech again produced an immediate answer, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to regain a two-run advantage before UCF’s explosive seventh inning.

UCF’s 16 total hits represented the team’s second-highest single-game total this spring, trailing only its 25 against Wisconsin in the team’s 21-9 win in Clearwater Feb. 16, and Evans, Cody and Jasmine Williams each joined Griffin in recording three-hit games, with Sierra Humphreys notching a pair of hits as well.

Cody’s four RBI marked a season high, and her highest single-game total since her four-RBI showing against Gardner-Webb Feb. 23, 2023.

Williams’ three hits also represented a season high, and the shortstop recorded her first three-hit game since she went 3-for-3 with a double and a home run in the Knights’ 9-1 victory over Tulsa in the 2023 American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship Game May 13.

The contest also represented the latest step forward for the shortstop as she continues to regain her form following a hand injury that held her out of the lineup Feb. 8-24. Williams represents the team’s leading hitter in Big 12 Conference play, boasting a .355/.355/.548 line (11-for-31) with three doubles, one home run, five runs scored and 17 total bases through 11 games.

Southpaw Angelina DeVoe earned the win in relief, meanwhile, registering her second winning decision of the season with two innings of one-run ball including a pair of strikeouts.


The Knights look to complete the road sweep of the Red Raiders in the series finale Saturday afternoon. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. ET from Rocky Johnson Field, and the game will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.


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