UCF Softball was more ready than ever to make a statement in its conference as it faced off with Houston at the UCF Softball Complex Friday night. The Knights were able to open conference play with a huge 5-3 win over the Cougars, where the youth of the Knights lineup stepped up tremendously at a crucial time.
“Conference is just really exciting,” freshman designated player Aubrey Johnson said. “It was a great win in a great atmosphere and it will definitely help us moving forward.”
Early on, it looked as if it was going to be a tough game for the Knights (16-13, 1-0 AAC) as UCF freshman pitcher Alea White struggled on the mound early, giving up two runs in the first inning. White, with the help of her teammates’ clutch defense, was able to refocus, only allowing the Cougars (14-13, 0-1) to score one other run in the game.
The Knights’ offense responded immediately after their first inning slip up, taking a 3-2 lead after a huge hit from Johnson. The freshman, having moved around the rotation all season, shined with three RBI’s and she could not have performed at a better time for the Knights.
“My at-bats today were confident. I went up to the plate knowing that I was going to hit the ball and my second at bat was for [freshman third baseman Tamesha Glover].” Johnson said.
After a big hit in the first inning, Glover went down with a tough injury in the third and had to leave the game for the Knights. However, her injury seemed to inspire a sense of urgency among her team as they responded the next inning with two more runs.
“We have seen her go down before and so we knew we had to step it up for her. Knowing that she puts everything on the field, we had to repay her with those runs.” Johnson added.
Putting on a gritty defensive performance, UCF did not allow a run for the last 5 innings of the game. Coach Renee Luers-Gillispie was pleased with how her team opened up against a strong Houston unit.
“We know any time we face Houston, especially in the opener, it is going to be tough.” Luers-Gillispie said. “It was very impressive to see our offense come back and battle back all game, coming up with some big hits when we really needed it.”
Up next, the Knights will battle it out again with Houston tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the UCF Softball Complex.
Sarah Kelliher is a contributor for the Central Florida Focus. You can follow her on Twitter at @SaraheKelliher and you can email the sports team at EvanA@centralfloridafocus.com.