UCF Sweeps Again, Off to Second Best Start in School History

GO KNIGHTS Junior Marissa Menendez is hitting a team leading .455 through four games.
Junior Marissa Menendez is hitting a team leading .455 through four games.

Feb. 11, 2012

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By Andrew Jennette

CLERMONT, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF softball team (4-0) again won both games of their double header vs. Bethune-Cookman and Chattanooga on their second and final day of Dot Richardson's National Collegiate Softball Invitational at the National Training Center softball complex. The Knights defeated the Wildcats in the opening game 10-4 before toppling the Mocs 6-2 in UCF's final game of the invitational event.

Game One - UCF 10, Bethune-Cookman 4Box Score Get Acrobat Reader

UCF slugged out 11 hits and hit three home runs as the bats surged against Bethune-Cookman. Freshman Farrah Sullivan (Waynesboro, Miss.) smashed a three-run home run in the top of the first inning and finished the game 3-4 with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored. Sullivan and the rest of the Knights carried the team to a dominant 10-4 victory over Bethune-Cookman (0-3) in their third game of the Dot Richardson's National Collegiate Softball Invitational.

Sullivan had a tremendous weekend for the Knights as the young slugger hit .417 (5-12) and knocked in a team-leading six runs for the Knights in the four games. Sullivan is also leading the black and gold in slugging percentage as well as total bases. Perhaps most surprising, a recruited first baseman, Sullivan also made several strong defensive plays at third base, leading the Knights with nine infield assists in the weekend slate.  

Junior transfer Alex Hartshorn (Tampa, Fla.) made her first start of the season and earned her first Division I victory after allowing three earned runs on four hits in four innings. Hartshorn kept the Wildcats limited on the bases by not allowing a single walk. Senior Ali Schmidt (Cordova, Md.) earned her first career save after pitching three scoreless innings in relief.

Junior catcher Alena Murgatroyd (Lancaster, Calif.) went 2-3 and broke the game wide open in the top of the seventh inning when she hit a three-run home run to give the Knights a six run cushion. Murgatroyd also gunned down her second potential base stealer of the season in the fourth inning. Murgatroyd has caught 24 of a possible 26 innings this season for the Knights, a stat that has not gone unnoticed by her coach Renee Luers-Gillispie.

"I have to give Alena a ton of credit. She's caught virtually every inning for us so far and has just done a great job with our pitchers as well as throwing out three runners. We'll see how her knees feel on Monday, but I'm incredibly proud of her so far," Gillispie said.

Junior second baseman Danielle Brewer also had a big day at the plate as she went 2-4 with an RBI double to right in the first inning. Brewer followed that up with a solo home run over the left field fence in the sixth. Brewer has been praised by the coaching staff for her ability to move runners and help facilitate the Knights running attack.

Bethune-Cookman was able to tie the game at four in the third inning, but the Knights bounced back in the fifth and retook the lead when senior Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) plated junior first baseman Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) with a sacrifice fly to right. Menendez reached on a bloop single to center and was advanced to third on a well-placed single by Sullivan.

Game Two - UCF 6, Chattanooga 2 Box Score Get Acrobat Reader

Freshman standout Mackenzie Audas (Plant City, Fla.) was once again dominant in her second career start as the UCF defeated Chattanooga 6-2 in their fourth and final game of Dot Richardson's National Collegiate Softball Invitational. The win gave the Knights their second best start in school history, topped only by their 5-0 start in 2004.

Audas pitched her second complete game of the weekend and kept the Mocs both off balance and overmatched with her mix of risers and changeups. Audas struck out 10 batters in seven innings and did not allow a walk for the second consecutive game. The righty has an incredible 19-0 strikeout to walk ratio in her two starts for the Knights.

The Knights fell behind 1-0 in the first inning as Chattanooga plated the game's first run with a sacrifice fly. As they have done throughout the entire weekend, the black and gold showed off their resiliency by quickly plating two runs in the bottom of the first to retake the lead that they would never relinquish.

Freshman Kahley Novak (Clermont, Fla.) got the Knights started in the first by working a walk. Novak then stole her team-leading fourth base to get into scoring position. After moving over on a passed ball, Novak scored easily on an RBI groundout off the bat of Brewer. Novak and the rest of the Knights went a tremendous 12-13 in stolen base attempts in the four games. Later in the inning, Sullivan plated senior Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) with a sacrifice fly to deep left field.

With Audas on cruise control on the mound, the Knights picked her up again in the third when Land reached on a fielding error, stole second, and scored standing up on an RBI double by Sullivan. The unearned run gave Audas a two-run cushion and the confidence needed to continue to attack the Mocs' free swinging lineup. Murgatroyd ended a potential Chattanooga threat in the fifth by throwing out a potential base stealer at second.

The biggest defensive play of the young season came in the top of the sixth inning. Holding a 3-1 lead with two outs and a runner in scoring position, the Mocs lifted a shot to the deepest part of the park in dead centerfield. Perez sprinted back, found the wall, and timed her jump perfectly to make a tremendous and potentially game saving catch. The home run would have tied the game at 3, but instead the catch ended the inning.

UCF added three much needed insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth as Perez and senior Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.) both singled. Senior Allie Jest (Stone Mountain, Ga.) plated them both with a rocket shot into the right field gap that Jest turned into a standup triple. Jest scored on the next pitch as Novak knocked her in with an RBI ground out. With a comfortable 5 run cushion, Audas nailed down the win with two more strikeouts in the seventh and final inning.

The Knights will travel to California on Wednesday for the San Diego State University Tournament that begins on Friday with games against No. 9 ranked Washington and UC Davis at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

The Black and Gold will play 30 home games at the UCF Softball Complex, with season tickets for the 2012 season costing only $40. The Knights' first home game is slated for Feb. 24 against Seton Hall. Tickets are available for purchase online at UCFAthletics.com and Ticketmaster.com, or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) UCF-1000.



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