ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF softball team won the annual UCF Spring Fling Tournament championship on Saturday as it used record-breaking team speed to zip past Penn, 3-0, in the final game of the night. The Knights (13-8) hoped to wrap up the title earlier in the afternoon at the UCF Softball Complex against UConn, but the Huskies held off a late rally and won 4-3. UCF is tied with Ole Miss at the top of the standings, but takes the crown having defeated the Rebels head-to-head.
Sophomore Maddy Schroeder kick started a big day at the plate and on the bases by going 1-for-3 with an RBI single and two steals against the Huskies. After hitting just .209 with nine stolen bases in 42 starts as a freshman a year ago, the Jacksonville native has become one of the Knights' most dangerous two-way players as she leads the team with a .341 batting average and has already matched her stolen base total of nine in just 21 games this season.
Freshman Shelby Turnier was looking for her third win in as many games in the circle, but it did not come to fruition. The Palm Beach Gardens native took her first loss since February 8 as she allowed seven hits and four runs (three earned) in 6.1 innings with three walks and three strikeouts. Freshman Mackenzie Huhn was placed into a difficult based-loaded one out situation and responded beautifully as she forced a tapper back to the mound for a rare 1-2-3-2 double play.
Overall the Knights were unable to get their offense on track as they recorded just two hits. Trailing 4-1, the Black and Gold used their aggressive approach on the bases to get within one. With freshman Kaitlyn Steckel at the plate and runners on second and third, UConn allowed a passed ball to get to the backstop. Freshman Samantha McCloskey scored from third and sophomore Hayley Barrow sped all the way around from second to plate another run when the throw from the catcher was wide. The Knights, however, were unable to get any closer as UConn recorded 10-consecutive outs to seal the win.
Knowing they needed a win to clinch the tournament crown, the Black and Gold made a conscious effort to keep maximum pressure on the Quakers defense by running at every opportunity. The Knights broke one of the oldest records in team history as they swiped 10 bases on the night. The previous record was set in the very first year of the program's existence as UCF stole nine against Morris Brown on April 27, 2002. In all, Steckel, Schroeder, senior Lauren Aldridge, sophomores Farrah Sullivan and Kahley Novak and freshmen Mariah Garcia, Lindsay Neyland and Jasmine Acevedo all got in on the theft parade with Novak taking three on her own. As a team the Knights are now 58-of-67 (86.5%) in steals for the year.
Sophomore Mackenzie Audas bounced back from a tough outing on Friday with a dominant performance. The Plant City native allowed just four hits in 6.2 innings with no walks issued and seven strikeouts. Audas was lifted as the Knights looked to get some experience for freshman Lauren Dannelley in the seventh. Dannelley, making her UCF home debut, induced a popup to end the game and win the tournament for UCF.
The Black and Gold got on the board first in the third inning after an RBI double by Acevedo scored Steckel. Unfortunately, the Knights leading RBI player was injured on a late slide into second and had to leave the game. UCF coaches said after the game Acevedo would be reevaluated tomorrow. Later in the inning, Sullivan reached on an error, but picked up an RBI on the groundball that would have scored the run regardless with just one out. In the fourth, Schroeder picked up her second RBI single of the day to cap the offensive effort from the Knights..
The UCF Spring Fling concludes tomorrow with Ole Miss v. Villanova at 9:30 and UConn v. Penn at 11:30 a.m. The Knights are not scheduled for action Sunday. UCF has a full week of action ahead as it has six games scheduled for next week.
UCF Spring Fling Standings UCF 3-1* Ole Miss 3-1 UConn 2-2 Villanova 1-3 Penn 1-3