The No. 17 UCF softball team could not have started off their 2016 campaign much better than they had this past weekend. The Knights opened their season on Thursday night by taking down Liberty by a score of 7-2.
In a double-header on Friday, the Knights (4-1) were tasked with playing Rutgers and No.5 Alabama. The Knights opened Friday with a strong performance over Rutgers, winning the game 4-1.
The real test came a short time after their first game when they faced off against No. 5 Alabama. The Knights responded to the challenge and upset the Crimson Tide by a score of 8-1.
Sophomore Courtney Rotton led the Knights offensively, going 4-for-4 with five RBI’s against Alabama. Senior pitcher Shelby Turnier struck out nine in the victory and was dominant all day as she picked up the win.
"What a great day with two great wins,” head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said in a press release by UCF Athletics. “We were not expecting this type of outcome, but I knew that our players were ready to play [Alabama]. The entire season was set up to have good competition and give ourselves the chance to play these kind of teams at home. We knew coming out that we were ready."
Playing Alabama at home marked the first time that the UCF Softball Complex had hosted a top 25 matchup and it was the first ever home win against a top five program.
UCF finished up the weekend with another pair of games on Saturday, splitting that series. In the first game, the Knights were able to shut out Fordham by a score of 4-0 behind the pitching of Manami Calixto who pitched six scoreless innings and picked up the win.
In the second game on Saturday, the Knights lost a tough contest against James Madison by a score of 1-0. Shelby Turnier threw a two-hit complete game but UCF failed to get on the board to aid their pitcher’s dominant performance.
Though they lost the final game in their opening weekend, the Knights are off to a great start to the season. In recognition of this great five game start to the season on opening weekend, the Knights took home both American Athletic Conference weekly awards.
Sophomore Courtney Rotton was named Player of the Week and senior Shelby Turnier was the conference Pitcher of the Week.
Rotton is batting .571 with eight runs batted, none more important than the five runs she scored in the victory over Alabama.
Turnier was a big part of the first weekend success as well. She went the distance in two of the games she pitched this weekend and was striking out batters left and right, giving her a total of 17 strikeouts early on in this season.
UCF will not have much of a break as they host its third ranked opponent in their first six games when No. 4 Auburn comes to town on Wednesday.
Matthew Saunders is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @ClassicSmit or email him at MatthewS@CentralFloridaFuture.com