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#18 UCF Softball Starts Season 3-1

Knights show promise in Wins over UMass, Boise State, Ohio State.

UCF Softball OF #12 Chloe Evans crosses home plate after hitting a 2-run walk-off home run against RV Boise State Friday night.
Noah Goldberg

The No. 18 UCF Knights Softball team started the 2023 season with a 3-1 weekend, beating UMass, Boise State, and Ohio State, with the only a loss coming to No. 13 Georgia on opening night.

Let’s go Around The Bases and see what we learned this weekend about the 2023 Knights:

1st - UCF Pitching Has Promise

The biggest question this season is how UCF’s pitching looks following the graduation of Gianna Mancha and Kama Woodall. After the first week of the season. So far the results are promising.

Kaitlyn Felton is the most improved player on the team and is the possible ace of the rotation. After a tough season debut against Georgia in relief on opening night, Felton dominated the rest of the tournament, picking up two wins and a save. It started with a career-high 13-strikeout performance against UMass in a 7-1 win.

Felton followed up with relief appearances against Boise State and Ohio State where she threw 2 shutout innings to get the save. Felton pitched 11.1 innings, striking out 17 batters and giving up just 4 hits and 0 earned runs. Felton was one of six pitchers used in the four games. She earned conference Pitcher of the Week honors for her efforts.

Sarah Willis Made her Knights debut starting against No. 13 Georgia.
Photo: Brenna Johnson

The Knights’ pitching staff held opponents to a .179 batting average with 36 strikeouts in 28 innings. Sarah Willis started the Georgia and Ohio State games, going 6 innings and giving up one run, while Grace Jewell started the Boise State game, striking out 7 in 2.1 innings.

The Knights also have a couple of weapons in the bullpen in Angelina DeVoe, who pitched 5.2 innings in 3 relief appearances, picking up the win out against Ohio State, and Macy Miles, who had a good debut in relief against the Broncos with 2 quality innings in relief.

The one negative from the staff was the 18 walks and 4 hit batters. That will need to be cleaned up as it played a significant role in the 4-2 loss to Georgia.

2nd: Chloe Evans and Kennedy Searcy Are Explosive Hitters

Chloe Evans had an impressive first week as a Knight, going 6/11 with 5 runs batted in and the walk-off homer against Boise State.

Evans brings protection for Jada Cody and Shannon Doherty hitting in the clean-up spot, as does Kennedy Searcy, who went 5/12 with a home run and 4 runs batted in.

Searcy was a first-team All-AAC performer in 2022 and is even better this year, back playing in LF as she did in 2021.

3rd: Jasmine Williams Is Clutch With Her Glove

In my 16 years around UCF Softball, I have never seen a shortstop make a play like Williams did in the top of 6th against the Buckeyes to preserve the 1-0 win.

Plays like this are what made Williams an All-Pac 12 performer at Oregon. Williams also contributed on offense, going 4/13 at the plate with a home run.

Home: Great Atmosphere at The Plex

It was an incredible atmosphere this weekend at the Plex.

Opening night against Georgia drew 1,118 fans, the largest crowd ever on opening night for UCF Softball, breaking last year’s Georgia game.

Saturday night’s game vs. Ohio State game drew 1,091 fans, making it the first time in program history the Knights have drawn over 1,000 fans twice in their first home tournament.

Keep in mind Softball went up against UCF Men’s Basketball’s home game vs. Tulsa. The Knights drew 815 fans against UMass on Friday late afternoon. Every coach in the tournament said the atmosphere felt like an NCAA Tournament regional.

The capacity for the stadium is only 600. With the move to Big 12 next year, expanding the stadium will be something UCF will need to address.

Here are the highest-attended UCF Softball home games:

  1. April 4, 2018 vs. #4 Florida — 1,236
  2. May 22, 2022 vs Michigan — 1,227
  3. March 3, 2019 vs. #1 Florida State — 1,161
  4. February 27, 2022 vs #4 Florida — 1,152
  5. February 9, 2023 vs #13 Georgia — 1,118
  6. February 10,2022 vs. #12 Georgia — 1,093
  7. February 11, 2023 vs Ohio State — 1,091
  8. March 31, 2010 vs. #6 Florida — 1,091
  9. April 6, 2016 vs. #2 Florida — 1,064

On Deck: UCF hosts Missouri Wednesday night at 6 p.m.