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Justman throws Knights' second '24 no-hitter as Softball takes two from Bethune-Cookman

by Ryan Ladika
  • Game 1
  • Game 2
Box Score

ORLANDO – Fifty-two days later, the UCF softball team finished what it started.

A pair of lightning delays that totaled 128 minutes forced the program to suspend its Knights Classic finale against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats March 3, and Wednesday night, UCF picked up where it left off.

“It’s been a month since we last played this game. It was interesting leading off with a runner on second to start the game.”

Aubrey Evanson resuming the suspended game from March 3

The Knights put the finishing touches on a 9-1 five-inning victory to complete the suspended contest, and in a later-added second game between the two programs, southpaw Ava Justman made history with the Black and Gold’s second no-hitter of the 2024 campaign and the 24th in program history, leading her squad to an 8-0 six-inning run-rule win.

In spinning her first solo no-hitter and the second of her career overall after she and Sona Halajian combined to no-hit Jacksonville April 10, Justman joined an exclusive club within Knights lore, becoming the fifth pitcher in program history to have a hand in multiple no-hitters in the same season.

Gianna Mancha was the last to accomplish the feat in 2022, spinning a combined no-hitter with Kama Woodall against Tulsa May 1 after she threw an individual six-inning no-no against Furman March 19.

Newly-inducted UCF Hall-of-Famer Shelby Turnier threw a pair of no-hitters in 2015, as did fellow Hall-of-Famers Mackenzie Audas and Allison Kime, with the first two of Kime’s eventual four no-hitters coming in the 2006 season.

“It feels amazing. I’m honestly at a loss for words. Yesterday I had a really good practice, I threw live and I was feeling really good going into this game. I always want to be there and support my team, and I know my team has my back. This feels amazing.”

Ava Justmanon throwing her first solo no-hitter

The Knights southpaw was masterful throughout her evening start, allowing only one baserunner and preventing the Wildcats from seeing a ball leave the infield throughout the contest.

Justman erased a Bethune-Cookman baserunner who reached on an error in the bottom of the first inning, inducing a 4-6-3 double play turned by Samantha Rey, Aubrey Evans and Shannon Doherty.

The double play marked the second ground ball of the first inning after Justman recorded her first out of the game with a groundout to Evans at shortstop, and represented two of 15 total outs recorded by Justman on the ground.

The left-hander recorded the remaining three outs via a pop out to Evans in the fifth, accompanied by a pair of strikeouts in the fourth and sixth innings.

“I know my defense always has my back. I’m more of a pitch-to-contact type of pitcher, so I knew regardless, my defense was going to make all the plays that needed to be made.”

Ava Justman

In addition to her defense locking things down in the field, UCF’s offensive exploits continued at the plate in support of Justman. The Black and Gold erupted for seven of their eight runs within the first three innings of play, highlighted by a four-run second inning.

Right fielder Chloe Evans kick-started the Knights’ offense in the first inning, boosting her team-leading RBI total to 32 with a first-inning run-scoring single, marking the squad’s third straight one-out hit in the frame following knocks by Kennedy Searcy and Jada Cody.

Aubrey Evans soon followed with the first of her two doubles in the nightcap, and her third double of the day after she ignited the resumption of the suspended game with an RBI two-bagger, plating Doherty on the play.

Searcy and Cody again found themselves in the middle of their team’s production, recording a respective RBI single and double in back-to-back at-bats to punctuate the squad’s four-run frame.

Aubrey Evans quickly pushed the game out of reach with her second double of the game in the third, driving in Doherty and Rey. The contest marked her first multi-double game of the season and the second such game of her career after she swatted a trio of two-baggers against Kennesaw State March 11, 2023.

“We came out hungry, we scored runs in the second inning of the first game and we just came out attacking in the second game too,” Aubrey said. “That was our whole mindset, was just to come out and attack and win.”

Searcy sealed Justman’s six-inning no-no with an RBI double to left-center field, giving the senior outfielder her first three-hit game of the season and her first such contest since she notched back-to-back three-hit games against Houston in Orlando April 28-29, 2023.

“We are really focused on playing against ourselves. We’re going to have to do that because the next few games that we have coming up are really big, not only because of who we’re playing, but what time of year and what it means to finish in conference and go into the conference tournament.”

Cindy Ball-Malone

The Knights’ prolific second game against the Wildcats came right on the heels of the squad hitting the ground running in the resumption of the suspended contest from March 3. Already leading 4-0 in the bottom of the second inning on the strength of a three-run home run by Ashleigh Griffin and an RBI single from Sarah Willis, UCF wasted no time in adding on when the game finally commenced once again.

Aubrey Evans slugged the first of her three doubles on the day to drive in Cody, on what was the second pitch of Wednesday’s first at-bat once the game resumed.

Doherty followed with her third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the bottom of the third inning that also scored Rowe and extended the Knights’ advantage to 7-0, and Sierra Humphreys produced the game-ending hit in the bottom of the fifth inning, a two-run double to score Rey and Willis that gave UCF its eight runs after five innings.

“It was so cool how prepared we were,” Ball-Malone continued. “We saved all our documents from that game, and (Director of Operations) Adam DeRusha had the situation posted up so everyone knew what the situation was going to be for the last couple of days. Aubrey had three doubles today, and to lead off the game in the second inning with that double, it looked like we had practiced it, and we did. We talked about what it was going to look like, and we hit the ground running.”

Right-hander Grace Jewell, who was tabbed for the start on March 3, took the circle Wednesday afternoon and didn’t skip a beat in continuing her outing. After she worked around a trio of singles prior to the suspension, the senior recorded her third strikeout in a 1-2-3 top of the third inning.

The Wildcats tagged Jewell for a leadoff home run to start the fourth inning, but the senior was unfazed, retiring the final six hitters she faced in the shortened run-rule victory via six groundouts.

“Really good to play free like we did today, all of our pitchers have really been throwing well for the last two or three weeks,” Ball-Malone continued. “I’m very pleased about that, and I like how we got some offense from everybody in the lineup today.”


The Knights embark on their final three regular-season home games of the 2024 campaign when they welcome the three-time defending national champion and second-ranked Oklahoma Sooners to the UCF Softball Complex April 26-28. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. Friday night, 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon and 11 a.m. Sunday morning, with the first two games to be streamed live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. The series finale will be televised nationally on ESPNU.


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