On Thursday, the Big 12 Conference announced the 2024 softball schedule.
UCF Knights Softball’s inaugural schedule starts on the weekend of March 8 and features nine conference series, beginning with the Kansas Jayhawks in Orlando for the first-ever Big 12 Conference game at the UCF Softball Complex.
' !— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) November 9, 2023
Our inaugural Big 12 schedule has arrived! pic.twitter.com/UCDeenNg34
Here are my four takeaways from UCF’s inaugural Big 12 schedule:
1. UCF Hosts Defending National Champion Oklahoma
UCF will host the three-time defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners on April 26-28, in the Knights' final Big 12 conference series of the 2024 season. It will be the most-demanded regular season series ticket in program history.
The Sooners are in the middle of a dynasty run, having won five national titles since 2016, including the last three. They enter 2024 on an NCAA record 53-game winning streak.
UCF played Oklahoma in the 2022 Super Regional in Norman, won by the Sooners. UCF graduate assistant Shannon Saile played for Oklahoma from 2019-2021, helping lead the Sooners to win the national title in her final year there.
This series will also be the Sooners' last Big 12 road conference series ever as Oklahoma will move on to the SEC next year.
2. UCF Hosts Texas As Well
The Texas Longhorns also will make the trip to UCF for the first time on the weekend of March 22-24.
The Longhorns are coming off an NCAA Super Regional appearance and an appearance in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Softball Championship game, winning 45 games last year.
The Knights and Longhorns had a memorably wild meeting in Clearwater in 2022, won by UCF 15-10.
Texas played for the national championship two years ago and figures to be in the preseason top ten in 2024.
The Texas and Oklahoma series will be the two most-requested weekend series tickets in program history.
3. Maddie Bejarano Returns to UCF
UCF will host the BYU Cougars on April 4-6, which will mark the return of former Knight Maddie Bejarano, who played at UCF for three seasons and was part of the Knights’ NCAA Tournament appearances in 2021 and 2022.
She helped UCF to the AAC title and the historic Orlando Regional championship where she hit the game-tying and game-winning double in an 11-inning thriller against Michigan in the winner’s bracket game.
Following the 2022 season, Bejarano transferred to BYU to be closer to her family, including her brother Tanner, who has Down Syndrome. Bejarano made 2nd team All-WCC as the Cougars went 35-17.
4. UCF has 5 road series and 4 home series
Like football, Softball has nine conference weekends with five on the road and four at home. Eight of the nine opponents had an RPI under 100 with four teams putting up 40 wins or more.
UCF will play three teams that were a top-16 national seed last year with Baylor being in the mix to host.
UCF's first Big 12 road series is at Oklahoma State, which advanced to its fourth-consecutive WCWS last season and finished with 47 wins.
The Big 12 was the top-ranked RPI league in 2023 and was the only conference to have 57% of its teams finish with 40 or more wins. The league finished with a 64-26-1 (.709) record against other Power Five leagues last season and had a winning record against each of the other four conferences.
Here is the breakdown of the toughest schedule in program history:
|3/15/2024||6:00 PM||Oklahoma State||5||47-16|
|3/16/2024||2:00 PM||Oklahoma State||5|
|3/17/2024||12:00 PM||Oklahoma State||5|
|3/28/2024||6:00 PM||Texas Tech||67||31-22|
|3/29/2024||6:00 PM||Texas Tech||67|
|3/30/2024||12:00 PM||Texas Tech||67|
|5/3/2024||4:00 PM||Iowa State||71||25-30|
|5/4/2024||1:00 PM||Iowa State||71|
|5/5/2024||12:00 PM||Iowa State||71|
Some other UCF Softball quick hits...
2024 Recruiting Class Ranked 24th
For the third straight year, UCF has a Top 25 signing class (25th in 2022, 16th in 2023)
Shelby Turnier To Be Inducted into UCF Hall of Fame on Friday
This Friday night, UCF Softball’s most decorated player, Shelby Turnier, will be inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night.
Turnier will be the fifth UCF Softball player to be inducted, joining her teammate Mackenzie Audas (2012-2015), Stephanie Best (2002-2005), Natalie Land (2009-2012), and Allison Kime (2007-2008).
Turnier was the first player in program history to be an All-American, making the NFCA’s Division I All-America First Team in 2015, and finishing as a Top Ten finalist for National Player of the Year.
Turnier led the NCAA in ERA in 2015, tying a school record with a 0.87 ERA set by Kime in 2007. She became the first Knight to win AAC Pitcher of the Year (2015) and is one of only three Knights to win a Pitcher of Year award along with Audas (2012-CUSA) and Sarah Willis (2023).
Turnier is one of only three Knights pitchers in school history to reach 70 career wins and 800 career strikeouts, along with Kime and Audas.