This Friday night, Natalie Land will become the third UCF Knights Softball player to be inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame, along with UCF Football’s Blake Bortles and Josh Sitton, Basketball’s Jermaine Taylor, and Track and Field’s Afia Charles.
“Natalie Land is probably the best female athlete to ever come through UCF,” fellow UCF Hall-of-Famer Stephanie Best told Black and Gold Banneret.
Land becomes the third UCF Softball playerto be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Best and Allison Kime.
“Grateful to share the UCF Hall of Fame honor with Allison Kime who put us on the nap and now Natalie Land ... The best athlete in the history of UCF! Two incredible people that bleed black and gold and left it all on the field.” said Best.
Land set many records during her time with the Knights (2009-2012). She was the only UCF Softball player in program history to be a three-time first team All-C-USA selection (2010-2012).
“She was one of the most talented and electric players I ever witnessed take the field,” said Best, who coached Land for two seasons as an assistant coach at UCF.
Land ranks in top ten in just about every significant offensive category at UCF, including 6th in hitting (.316), 8th in hits (206), 4th in runs scored (134), 6th in on-base percentage (.397), 10th in slugging (.445), 6th in total bases (290), and 2nd all-time in stolen bases (102), which was one of Land’s favorite aspects of playing softball, she told Black and Gold Banneret in our exclusive chat with her.
Land was just as great of a player on defense as she was on offense. Her range and athleticism allowed her to make incredible plays at 2nd base and shortstop, which she did often during her Knight career.
“Her defense range and her offensive savviness is what set her apart from the rest. Natalie Land is a world class athlete and person,” Best said.
Land grew up in Mayo, Florida, which is about one hour away from Gainesville, where many expected she would end up playing Basketball or Softball. Land was recruited in both sports as she was a star player in both sports in high school. In the end she decided to play Softball for then Head Coach Renee Luers-Gillispie at UCF over playing Basketball and/or Softball at Florida.
Land would help lead UCF to two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2012. She also helped lead the Knights to the C-USA Championship game in 2010 and helped raise the program profile on and off the field, following in the footsteps of Best and Kime.
“Natalie is a fierce competitor with an unbelievable work ethic,” Kime told Black and Gold Banneret. “She continued the success of our program with her commitment to excellence both on and off the field. I am proud to call her a friend and now a Hall of Fame teammate.”
Following her Knights career, Land would play for the U.S. National Women’s Baseball team the following year helping them win a silver medal in the World Cup in Edmonton, Canada.
“Natalie Land is one of the best and most athletic shortstops I have ever coached in 11 years of Division 1 softball,’’ said Ruben Felix, who was Land’s assistant coach at UCF for two seasons (2011-2012).
“Land had great blazing speed, hands, range, instincts and the ability to change the game like no other on defense & offense. A true leader with ICE in her veins on and off the field. Once in a generation type of athlete. Her passion and dedication to the game and the classroom was a blessing to witness as her coach at UCF.”
It was Felix, who is a former Baseball player and has coached in MLB and for Team USA, who saw Land as someone who could excel in Baseball.
“Off the charts athletic ability and God-given talent to play at a very high level,” Felix said about Land playing Baseball. “She was our starting shortstop for the 2012 Women’s USA Baseball National Team when we won Silver in the World Cup in Edmonton, Canadá.”
In many ways, It was a fitting end to Land’s athletic career as she showed how gifted of an athlete she was by excelling in another sport. Land’s legacy could have played out on a Basketball court or Softball diamond in Gainesville, following her family heritage and playing where her uncle, Kerwin Bell, became a legendary Gator quarterback. But luckily for UCF, Land came to Orlando and became a legendary Knight.
For more on UCF Athletic Hall of Fame Class. Check out our special edition of “Knight Shift” we did on this year’s class and who could be possible candidates in the future.