The UCF Knights Softball Team wrapped up the CFX Classic on Saturday, beating Fresno State 6-1 and Longwood 9-1 in 5 innings to start the 2022 season at 3-1. Of course the game everyone in was buzzing about was Thursday’s dramatic win over No. 12 Georgia, which you can read a recap of here:
BOOM! @UCF_Softball knocked off No. 12 Georgia 7-6 in extra innings last night thanks to a walk-off bomb by Shannon Doherty.@EricLopezELO looks back at a memorable Opening Knight! #UCF #ChargeOn https://t.co/9rMYN2gqKz— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCFBanneret_SBN) February 11, 2022
Each week we will go around the bases for my thoughts on the week that was and take some of your questions.
1st: Jada Cody Put on a Show
In my 15 years covering UCF Softball, I have never seen any player dominate a doubleheader like Jada Cody did on Saturday. Cody set the tone for the day with a 3-run homer in bottom of the 1st inning against Fresno State.
Cody combined to hit for the cycle, going 4-for-6 and with a home run and 8 RBI while starting at third base and catcher, while also showing her speed in breaking the game wide open against Longwood.
Cody is in the mix with UCF Athletics Hall-of-Famers Stephanie Best and Natalie Land as the greatest athlete in program history. There is nothing she can’t do on a softball field.
2nd: Kaitlyn Felton’s Debut Did Not Disappoint
Knight fans had been anticipating the debut of Freshman Kaitlyn Felton, who was rated as the 63rd-best overall player in 2021 class, according to Extra Innings Softball, making her the highest-rated pitcher since the great Shelby Turnier. Felton did not disappoint as she had a shutout going into the 7th inning in her start against Fresno State before ending up just giving up just one unearned run and three hits while striking out four to pick up the win.
Long time UCF Fan Kevin Reis, who covered UCF sports for a long time, sent in following question:
How impressed were you with Felton’s performance? My answer is very much.
To put that performance in perspective, Mackenzie Audas is the only other freshman pitcher in the 20 years of the program to give up one run or less in 6+ innings and get the win in her debut start as a freshman, and that was almost 10 years ago to the day (2-10-12) in Clermont against Ohio State.
3rd: Breakout Weekend for Maddie Bejarano
The Knights’ only blemish of the tournament came on Friday night as UCF was shut down by Minnesota’s ace pitcher Autumn Pease, losing 3-1. But the big highlight of game came from Maddie Bejarano’s solo homer in the bottom of the 5th, which was her first career home run.
Bejarano went 4/8 with 4 runs scored in three starts while playing some strong defense in left. Playing for her brother Tanner, who has Down Syndrome, Bejarano made a statement to be in starting lineup in near future.
Home: Fan Questions about UCF’s Pitching Staff
One of the more popular questions in our mailbag from fans coming into the season was about the depth of the pitching staff with the graduation of UCF’s all-time wins leader, Alea White, and the departure of Breanna Vazquez, who transferred to Iowa to play for for former UCF Head Coach Renee Gillispie.
Here are a couple of questions I will answer at the same time:
Sam Unger: Out of the pitchers not named Mancha, who do you like as the number two from what you’ve seen so far?
Trace Trylko also asked the following question.
What conclusions do you draw about the pitching after the first 4 games?— Trace Trylko (@seinpez) February 13, 2022
It’s too early to figure out who is #2 behind Gianna Mancha, but my conclusion is UCF has depth in pitching. I talked about Felton’s debut against Fresno State, but the surprise to me has been Kama Woodall, who UCF Head Coach Cindy Ball-Malone used as a weapon out of the bullpen in the first three games. She got the win on Thursday against Georgia and closed the game against Fresno State. In three appearances, Woodall pitched 7.2 innings, giving up just two runs while striking out six.
Woodall’s versatility is a good compliment to Mancha as well as the young arms in Felton, Grace Jewell, and Angelina DeVoe.
Another popular question this weekend is this one sent to me by J.P Gilbert:
Was that walk-off against UGA the best bat flip in UCF Softball history?
Yes. It has been played all over social media:
UCF will host Liberty on Tuesday night before traveling to Clearwater to participate in the St. Pete/Clearwater Invitational, where they will be challenged by taking on Wisconsin, Texas Tech, and four nationally-ranked teams in Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida State. The Knights will likely be ranked themselves when the polls come out Tuesday.