May 15, 2010
HOUSTON, Texas (UCFAthletics.com) - Despite taking an early 1-0 lead Saturday afternoon in the Conference USA Championship title game, the UCF (35-21) softball team eventually succumbed to East Carolina, 3-1, after the Pirates (42-16) scored three unanswered runs on the Knights' defense.
"We started off aggressive and got the run off an early mistake by ECU," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "But they are a really good hitting team, and we knew that heading into this matchup. They got some timely hits against us that we couldn't overcome. But, I was proud of the team and how they kept fighting and trying to make something happen. We just couldn't get those timely hits that we needed against them. East Carolina played hard and they got the hits they needed, they had early mistakes but they played a great game today."
UCF had five Knights named to the all-tournament team at the conclusion of the event, with Ashleigh Cole (Pace, Fla.), Hillary Barrow (Miami, Fla.), Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa), Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) and Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) all earning spots on the squad.
The contest, which was aired nationally on CBS College Sports network, was delayed 4.5 hours due to heavy rain in the Houston area. But, after less than two hours, the Black and Gold walked away from the 2010 league tournament as the runner-up. UCF will now await word from the NCAA Selection Committee on whether its season will continue with an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, with the selection show slated for 10 p.m. Sunday on ESPN U.
"It has been a battle every conference game this year," Luers-Gillispie said. "We are the fifth best conference in the country as far as scheduling and I think this conference has put itself in a position to put four teams in the tourney this year and I hope that the committee sees that. All we can do now is just sit back and wait for the committee to decide our fate."
Cole was recognized for once again being solid for the Knights in the circle. The senior did not give up a single earned run and allowed only five hits in the complete-game outing. Cole's record moved to 23-13 on the year with the loss.
"Ashleigh really wanted it today," Luers-Gillispie said. "I didn't even think about putting another pitcher out there. She looked at me and said she wanted it, and the defense wants her on the mound. She only gave up five hits, so she is doing what we need of her on the mound. We just weren't able to score the runs we needed to win."
Land, Perez and Mary Helen Tyler (Marianna, Fla.) all posted hits for the Black and Gold in the contest, with Tyler tallying the only extra-base hit for UCF with a double in the top of the seventh inning and Land scoring the only run in the first.
The Knights were the first to put a run across in the top of the first inning thanks to the heads up base running of Land. The speedy infielder drew a one-out walk, before advancing all the way to third base on a stolen base and a throwing error by ECU's catcher, Kai Clark. With McClain at the plate, Clark thought a delivery from Pirate's starter Toni Paisley was strike three for out No. 3 and tossed the ball high in the air. However, the count was only 3-2 after the pitch and Land took full advantage of the miscue, sliding under the tag to score the first run of the championship.
Just the same as errors had hampered the Pirates, a fielding error by the Knights, along with a walk, a hit and a sacrifice fly, allowed ECU to plate two runs in the bottom of the second inning and put the Black and Gold in a one-run hole.
The quick thinking and fast reactions of McClain behind the plate saved UCF from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the third inning. With a runner perched at third base, Cole fired a pitch far wide out of McClain's reach. The runner attempted to take home on the wild pitch, but McClain got to the ball quickly and tossed it to Cole at the plate. The runner turned to go back to third and Cole threw her out at the base for the second out of the frame.
The Pirates did go up by two runs, however, with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning after Cristen Aona hit a two-out triple down the right field line and scored on the second UCF fielding error of the game.
Following a double by Tyler, the Knights started to put a rally together in the top of the seventh inning, moving Tyler all the way to third base, but Paisley was able to get the Knights to foul out to end the game.
Paisley, who was named the C-USA Championship MVP, improved to 30-9 on the season with the victory in the circle for East Carolina. She gave up three hits, walked two and struck out six in 7.0 innings of work.
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C-USA Championship All-Tournament Team
MVP: Toni Paisley
Vanessa Moreno - ECU - OF
Marina Gusman-Brown - ECU - OF
Vanessa Perez - UCF - OF
Sissy Jimenez - ECU - INF
Kaui Tom - ECU - INF
Natalie Land - UCF - INF
Hillary Barrow - UCF - INF
Toni Paisley - ECU - P
Ashleigh Cole - UCF - P
Abby McClain - UCF - C
Maddie McKinley - Memphis - UTL