No. 16 UCF hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning to win the series rubber match, 3-0, over the Tulsa softball team Saturday afternoon at the Collins Family Softball Complex.
The Golden Hurricane fell to 23-14 overall and 5-4 in American Athletic Conference play, while the Knights improved to 36-6 overall and 8-1 in the league. After Friday's marathon doubleheader that lasted 23 innings and nearly seven hours, Saturday's finale finished in a brisk 1:36. The teams combined for six hits, while the three pitchers combined to total 16 strikeouts.
Tulsa freshman Emily Watson (6-3) struck out six batters in 6.0 innings, but allowed three unearned runs and three hits to take the loss. Senior Bailey Erwin took over in relief to start the seventh and struck out the side. Shelby Turnier (18-5) struck out seven, and allowed three hits and one walk to earn the win for the Knights. The home run by UCF shortstop Brittany Solis spelled the difference in the game.
“These were very competitive, high tension games. We didn't play flawlessly, but at the same time, with every pitch there was something on the line. All three of those games were like that,” Tulsa Head Coach John Bargfeldt said. “Obviously, as we go forward, we want these games to make us a better team. We're going to try to keep getting better, so we don't get that error or give away an out that extends an inning, and then ends up being some runs on the board. I don't know if the pitch was so much a mistake, as it was (Solis) just put a good swing on it. The ball was below her knees. The mistake was the little error that extended the inning.”
The Knights scored the game's only runs on the three-run homer by Solis with two outs in the top of the sixth. Following a throwing error by the pitcher that put runners at first and second, and an ensuing strikeout, Solis hit a low pitch over the fence in right center to make the score 3-0.
Tulsa got its first hit in the fifth inning on a two-out single to right field by sophomore center fielder Maddie Withee. Sophomore third baseman Maggie Withee singled with one out in the sixth, but a pair of groundouts back to the pitcher ended the frame. Junior designated player Jocelyn Sheffield, who got the start Saturday after a pair of key hits in the doubleheader on Friday, doubled to right center with one out in the seventh, but only reached third base.
Only one runner reached second base before the sixth inning, when UCF designated player Jessica Ujvari walked and then moved over on a sacrifice bunt. Other hits for UCF came on a single in the first inning by second baseman Kahley Novak and a single in the fourth by third baseman Farrah Sullivan.
“It's not one player or one play, but you can go back through and just see how important plays are in games like this. When you have high-tension games, you just have to be at your best to beat a very good team, and that's exactly what UCF is,” Bargfeldt said. “We've had some really tough losses to swallow, and they've come back and played very competitive. That's all we're asking at this point, because as you get down towards the end of the season, this is when you want to be playing your best. This has been a weird year, in terms of practice for us (with the weather), so we're kind of having to learn some things on the fly with some younger players. But we're getting better, and that's what you want to see as a coach.”
The Golden Hurricane hits the road for four straight games, beginning with a contest at Wichita State at 5 p.m. Tuesday. TU then travels to Greenville, N.C. for a three-game conference series at East Carolina Saturday and Sunday.