A home run by UCF in the bottom of the seventh was the only run separating Tulsa and the No. 15 Knights Saturday afternoon, as UCF claimed a 1-0 victory in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game at the UCF Softball Complex.
The Golden Hurricane fell to 36-18 after advancing to the American Championship finals in its first season in the league, and playing in its fourth conference championship game in the last five years. UCF catcher Samantha McCloskey hit a home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Knights (48-7) the win.
TU junior Caitlin Sill (10-11) went the distance, allowing just six hits and one walk. Shelby Turnier (24-6) allowed one hit and two walks, and struck out six batters for UCF.
Sill, juniors Jocelyn Sheffield and Jodi Edmiston and sophomore Maddie Withee were named to the American Athletic Conference Softball All-Championship Team.
“We played a very clean game, defensively. Pitching-wise, (Sill) was keeping them off balance most of the day,” Tulsa Head Coach John Bargfeldt said. “Obviously, we didn't get anything to fall against a good pitcher. When we did square something up, unfortunately, it was to where they could run it down, or right at somebody. It's tough to win a game if you're not generating opportunities and putting pressure on them. When we're facing a really good pitcher, we just have to get better at getting more opportunities to score.”
Maddie Withee singled up the middle with one out in the top of the second inning. Junior catcher Catherine Horner drew a walk in the first inning, and sophomore right fielder Brittany Walker walked in the fourth inning. None of the TU baserunners reached second base.
UCF threatened with a runner on third in the first, fourth and fifth innings – and less than two outs each time – but the Hurricane kept them off the scoreboard until the seventh. In the fourth, the Knights got a leadoff single, and a sacrifice bunt and fly out to deep center pushed the runner to third, but senior first baseman Julie Kernen leapt to snag a liner at first base and keep it from going down the right field line. A leadoff single and a walk put runners at first and second in the fifth inning, but Sill induced a fly out to left, groundout to short and a called strike three to end the threat.