ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) – The UCF softball team kept its momentum strong on Saturday with a pair of big victories on day two of the UCF Holiday Inn Select Invitational. The Knights (3-5) surged to the top of the tournament table with a 3-1 victory over Florida A&M (1-6) in the early game and another 3-1 triumph over South Carolina (5-2) in the night cap. UCF is the only undefeated team remaining in the event and can clinch the tournament championship by winning one of its two games tomorrow at the UCF Softball Complex.
Freshman Shelby Turnier made her home debut in game one and showed the kind of dynamic ability in the circle that UCF head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie knew she was capable of by tossing a complete game five-hitter against the Rattlers (1-6). The Palm Beach Gardens native struck out five of the first six hitters en route to a career-high nine punch outs and did not issue a walk as she earned the first victory of her young career.
The Knights had multiple opportunities to break the game open as they loaded the bases in the second, third and fourth innings, but only came away with a single run in the bottom of the third on a RBI single by Jasmine Acevedo. Acevedo has been a freshman surprise for the Knights as she leads the team with six RBI.
The Black and Gold picked up a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth when freshman Kalyn Cenal picked up the first hit and first RBI of her career after ripping a single up the middle on a tremendous 10-pitch at bat. Sophomore Kahley Novak followed by sneaking a single just inside the bag down the right field line to score freshman pinch runner Lindsay Neyland. Novak went 3-for-4 in the game and has been the Knights’ offensive catalyst this year as she leads the team in hits (10) and stolen bases (7).
Sophomore Mackenzie Audas did not have her best stuff in the Knights’ night cap, but she showed tremendous heart to battle through cold and windy conditions to defeat the Gamecocks, 3-1. Audas went the full seven innings, but was uncharacteristically wild as she issued four walks, hit a batter and threw just 63% of her pitches for strikes (84/134). However, when it mattered most, the Plant City native was at her best. She escaped a based-loaded, no-out situation in the top of the sixth, as well as a two-on, no-out dilemma in the top of the seventh without allowing any runs to guide the Knights to victory.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second, sophomore Hayley Barrow led off the inning with a single through the left side. Freshman Samantha McCloskey stepped in next and planted a double into the right field corner as Barrow motored all the way around from first and beat the throw at the plate to tie the game. Cenal was next and for the second time on the day, smacked an RBI single up the middle to give the Knights a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
The Black and Gold added a big insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when senior Lauren Aldridge, pinch running for sophomore Farrah Sullivan who singled, scored on an RBI single off the bat of Barrow. Aldridge has shown to have great value for the Knights on the bases as she currently leads the team with five runs scored.
The Knights return to action Sunday as the UCF Holiday Inn Select Invitational concludes with its third and final day. UCF takes on Buffalo at 1 p.m. with a second contest with Florida A&M to follow immediately afterwards. Please note that game times for each of the three Sunday contests have been pushed back two hours from their original starts due to the possibility of frost in the morning.
The Black and Gold have 24 home games remaining at the UCF Softball Complex, with season tickets for the 2013 season costing only $30. Single game and season tickets are available for purchase online at UCFAthletics.com and Ticketmaster.com, or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) UCF-1000.