The No. 2 Florida Gators held the UCF Knights to only one run Wednesday night before being able to walk out of the UCF Softball Complex with a win, beating the Knights 3-1.
The game featured some of the nation’s top pitchers, as UCF’s senior pitcher, Shelby Turnier, faced off against a pitching staff that has the nation’s lowest ERA which stands at a combined 0.85.
The game wasn’t without drama though, as senior catcher Samantha McCloskey was hit with a ball, which ended up firing up the Knights and the crowd, which was second largest in UCF’s history holding 1,064 people in attendance.
“I love whenever we get hit. It pumps me up a lot,” sophomore third baseman Courtney Rotton said.
Early jitters plagued the Knights as UF was able to score two runs, none of which came in on a base hit.
With the bases loaded and two outs, freshman second baseman Cassady Brewer fielded a ball cleanly, but looked to second instead of first. By the time she realized her mistake, she threw the ball to first allowing all runners to advance a base safely. This included a run scored by UF’s lead-off hitter, Kelsey Stewart. Turnier walked the next batter resulting in the second run scoring.
“We just kind of gave it away,” head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. “You have such a great team coming in, you have to play your best game and you know that, sometimes you get a little tight.”
The Knights offense was only able to muster up three hits while striking out at the plate 11 times.
“I think tonight we just didn’t pick out some of the best pitches. Especially in the first inning, we were very anxious at the ball,” Rotton, said.
The Knights settled in after the first inning. While the defense cost a run in the first inning, their defense after the first was stellar. They threw two runners out at home, including a tag out in the fifth inning. Junior right fielder Willow Kalinen made a great snag out in deep right field.
“We can’t control what the umpires are doing. We can’t control what the other team is doing. All we can do is control ourselves, and I think we did a good job at maintaining our composure, even when things weren’t going our way,” Turnier said.
In the top of the fifth inning, junior short stop Brittany Solis mishandled a ground ball hit up the middle, but recovered in time to throw out the runner at home to end the inning. In excitement, McCloskey spiked the ball towards the circle.
In the very next half inning, McCloskey led off and was immediately hit with a pitch.
“I think when we see our teammates get hit, that fires us up to move them over and show the defense that they made a mistake doing that,” redshirt junior Jasmine Acevedo said.
Freshman Tiffany Lower pinch ran for McCloskey and was able to advance to second on a deep fly ball to left field. Acevedo took advantage, hitting the ball to right-center, scoring the Knight’s only run.
The Knights tried to rally again in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases for McCloskey. But both McCloskey and senior first baseman Kalyn Cenal struck out.
UF would increase their lead to 3-1 in the top of the seventh inning when a run walked in.
The Knights continue their season as they play a three game series against Tulsa over the weekend. The series starts on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Johnathan Kuntz is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.