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Softball Outlasted by No. 2 Oklahoma in Series Finale, 11-7

by Ryan Ladika

ORLANDO – A fitting on-field representation of the day’s theme, the UCF softball team’s seniors led the way in the squad’s 2024 regular-season home finale.

Three Knights seniors, Chloe Evans, Sona Halajian and Shannon Doherty, all hit home runs to electrify the home crowd in UCF’s final regular-season home game, but the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners outlasted the Black and Gold by an 11-7 final score on Senior Day at the UCF Softball Complex Sunday afternoon.

“I loved our fight, I thought we fought every inning. They’re a good-hitting team and I thought we pitched very well this weekend and limited them to some big innings outside of the first inning on Friday. Today was tough because you’re seeing them for the third game. Our fight offensively against a staff with a low team ERA that’s hard to score against, I love how we stayed in it the whole time.”

Head coach Cindy Ball-Malone

With Sooners right-hander Nicole May in the circle in game three of the weekend series, the Knights found the early offensive groove that had been missing throughout the first two matchups.

Kaitlyn Felton, after surrendering five runs in the top of the first inning Friday, bounced back in the top of the first Sunday with a trio of punchouts to strand the bases loaded, and UCF immediately provided the right-hander support at the plate.

After Doherty drew a one-out, five-pitch walk, Evans worked the count full before lining the sixth pitch of her at-bat just inside the right field foul pole, staking the Black and Gold to their first lead of the series, 2-0, with her seventh home run of the season.

Evans’ two-run shot punctuated a strong all-around weekend against the No. 2 team in the nation for the Knights transfer right fielder, as Evans in three games against the Sooners hit .364 (4-for-11) with three extra-base hits (one double, two home runs), two runs scored, four RBI, 11 total bases and a slugging percentage of 1.000. Her four hits and .364 average paced the squad among players with at least 10 at-bats in the weekend series.

Oklahoma managed a pair to tie the game in the top of the second inning, but UCF again drew up a counterpunch in the home half. With two outs, Jasmine Williams shot a single through the left side of the infield in front of Sona Halajian, who crushed UCF’s second 3-2 two-run home run in as many innings over the center field camera tower to give the Knights their two-run advantage right back and eventually chase May from the contest.

Halajian’s shot represented only the latest bit of damage done by the San Anselmo, California, native to Oklahoma in her last four games against the Sooners. Halajian’s California Golden Bears drew a matchup with Oklahoma in the 2023 NCAA Norman Regional May 21 last season, a contest that saw Halajian plate two with a third-inning single to center field.

In five at-bats during this weekend’s series, the first time Halajian has seen the Sooners since, she notched a pair of hits, with her Sunday home run accompanied by her seventh-inning RBI double off the left field wall Saturday.

The Sooner offense would not be denied beginning in the top half of the third, as Oklahoma rallied for nine runs over the next three frames, including four-run third and fifth innings to swing the momentum back to the first base dugout.

Against the Sooners’ Friday starter Kelly Maxwell in relief, UCF kept scratching for more in efforts to close the gap, tallying a pair in the fourth and sixth innings on an RBI double by Williams and a fielder’s choice groundout by Sierra Humphreys which combined to trim Oklahoma’s lead to 11-6 entering the final frame.

With emotions running high in what could represent the final home at-bat in the UCF veteran first baseman’s career, Doherty slugged her fourth home run of the season against the Sooners’ second reliever of the contest, Kierston Deal, with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“I knew it was more than likely going to be my last at-bat at the ‘Plex, and this place has meant the world to me. I was going to go up there and I was going to trust and believe in everything that I’ve worked for the last five years. I’m going to have a clear mind and a full heart and just go for it, and have faith in God in that moment, and let it fly.”

First baseman Shannon Doherty

Not 24 hours removed from holding the Sooners to a season-low two hits, UCF became the just the fourth team this season to plate at least seven runs against the Oklahoma pitching staff, and the first since the Sooners yielded nine to the BYU Cougars April 12.

“Knight nation showed out. I’ve been here five years, and my family came and flew out as well, and the support has been great being here at UCF,” said senior utility player Jada Cody. “It’s bittersweet not getting the win the last game here at UCF, but we have so much left, more business we have to go finish and knowing that we were inches away, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. To see the support we’ve had the past few weeks has been amazing.”


UCF concludes the 2024 regular season with a three-game road series against the Iowa State Cyclones May 3-5. First pitch times from Cyclone Sports Complex are slated for 5 p.m. Friday evening, 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon and 1 p.m. Sunday, and all games will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.


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