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Softball Edged by Baylor, 3-2, in Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship Quarterfinal

by Ryan Ladika

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The UCF softball team made a late offensive rally, but the squad was edged by the Baylor Bears, 3-2, in its Phillips 66 Big 12 Softball Championship quarterfinal matchup at OGE Field at Devon Park Thursday evening.

Head coach Cindy Ball-Malone tabbed senior right-hander Sarah Willis for the start, and after limiting the Bears to just three runs in 12 innings between her two starts in Waco April 19-21, Willis turned in another strong outing in the circle Thursday.

A highlight-reel catch down the left field line made by left fielder Stormy Kotzelnick aided Willis in retiring the side in order in the bottom of the first inning, but Baylor struck first on the strength of a solo home run by starting pitcher Aliyah Binford in the bottom of the second inning.

Willis bounced back with a perfect third, including her fourth strikeout of the evening, and retired the side in order in the fourth as well, helped by a pinpoint throw from left field by All-Big 12 Freshman Team selection Samantha Rey that nabbed a Bears runner attempting to stretch a single to a double after Rey narrowly missed completing a diving catch.

Baylor doubled its lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, but the Knights managed to break through against Binford in the top of the sixth. First baseman Shannon Doherty roped a single back up the middle with one out, and after she was replaced by pinch-runner Samantha Delhoyo, designated player Sona Halajian strode to the plate.

The graduate transfer came through with the big hit UCF was looking for, clubbing Binford’s 1-1 offering over the right-center field fence to tie the game at two runs apiece.

Halajian’s timely hit factored into the third consecutive multi-hit effort by the San Anselmo, California, native, who has also hit safely in 11 of her last 17 games.

Dating back to her game-ending grand slam against North Florida April 2, Halajian boasts a team-leading .457 average (16-for-35) accompanied by five multi-hit games, three doubles, four home runs, 17 RBI, 31 total bases and an .886 slugging percentage.

The Bears scratched across the eventual game-winning run an inning later, though, eliminating UCF from the tournament and advancing to a semifinal matchup against No. 1 Texas.


UCF will await Sunday evening’s NCAA Tournament selection show to learn its postseason fate. The show begins at 7 p.m. ET Sunday, May 12 on ESPN2.


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