UCF Knights Softball had an up-and-down week, going 4-3 with wins over Gardner-Webb, Purdue, and Louisville while dropping games to Louisiana, Stetson, and Louisville.
Let's go Around The Bases for my thoughts from the past week.
1st: Savannah Adams Is Breaking Out
Savannah Adams has been spectacular since being inserted into the starting lineup in Clearwater. Adams is hitting .500 on the season with four homers and eight RBI, en route to winning AAC Player of the Week.
Savvy's now tied for the team lead with four homers! pic.twitter.com/Us5Bmk8Bt5— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) February 26, 2023
Adams, who hit the biggest pinch-hit HR in program history last year against Houston in the bottom of 8th of the AAC Semis, told me that moment and Shannon Doherty taking her under her wing has contributed to her success this season.
Doherty moved into 10th place all-time at UCF in career RBI (99) with two runs batted in during the 6-3 win over Purdue, passing Jessica Ujvari.
2⃣ hits and 2⃣ RBI for Shannon tonight! pic.twitter.com/Od5H49pp1v— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) February 26, 2023
Doherty talked about passing Ujvari on the list as well as Adams's growth and more.
2nd: Get To Know Aubrey Evans
The freshman from Apopka has started this season at second, third, and catcher, and has even played first base this season for the Knights. Evans is 2nd on the team in hitting at .333 on the season and has shown why she is the most highly-touted infielder since UCF Hall of Famer Natalie Land.
College triple number 1⃣ for Aubs! pic.twitter.com/lAu0ODFCvP— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) February 26, 2023
Evans is part of the freshman class ranked 25th-best according to Extra Innings.
3rd: Katie Burge is On a Surge
Burge has taken advantage of being inserted into starting lineup in Thursday’s doubleheader wins against Gardner-Webb. For the season Burge is 9/17 for the season with 2 doubles and 2 triples on the season.
Another three-bagger for Katie B! pic.twitter.com/TEsHKVYI1p— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) February 23, 2023
Burge helped the Great Britain National team win a silver medal this past summer in European Championships and will be playing in World Cup this summer.
Home: Kennedy Searcy Is Still Clutch
22 comes through in the clutch! pic.twitter.com/axKBayvUKA— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) February 25, 2023
Searcy delivered a 2-RBI hit in the bottom of 6th to give UCF a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Louisville.
Searcy has been the under-the-radar star of the team in this UCF run since 2021 and will continue to be key moving forward.
Home: Pitching Still Work In Progress
Sarah Willis was spectacular as the closer this week, making 3 relief appearances, pitching 6 innings and giving up just 2 hits while striking out six and getting the win against Louisville on Friday and the save against Purdue on Saturday night.
Sarah Willis appreciation post she threw 3.2 scoreless innings last night and closed out our win in the seventh! pic.twitter.com/8gmhH5F3zL— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) February 25, 2023
Willis had good command of her pitches and got help from her defense like her roommate Chloe Evans did on the final play of the Louisville win.
UCF as a staff has not been consistent with control as UCF has walked 63 batters in 113 innings pitched to a 1.55 WHIP as a staff. Angelina DeVoe been great in middle relief. Willis showed she can close games out. Willis is still young so it's too soon to say if she should just be a closer or if she can be a consistent starter. There is a ton of potential there. I am intrigued by her as she became the first UCF player ever to play three different positions where one was a pitcher. She has great power on offense.
Homer number 3⃣ for Sarah pic.twitter.com/gD3SE87x0J— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) February 23, 2023
The question I keep getting asked by fans remains will UCF get consistent innings from starting pitching and cut back on free passes? We have all been spoiled and fortunate to have seen great pitching over the history of the program.
Growing pains are part of the development of young pitchers. This is one of the youngest pitching staff in program history. Reminds me of the 2017 staff that was led by a freshman Alea White who was trying to figure out how to throw more than 5 innings consistent innings in a game. There were highs and lows. Fans were wondering if Alea can be a great pitcher. White eventually figured it out with patience and experience and became a legend at UCF rewriting the Knights record book.
Hopefully, we see the same with these young pitchers as the season develops.
Extra Innings: UCF Draws Good TV Numbers in Clearwater
.@UCF_Softball 's win over on Mississippi State on ESPN2 Drew largest #UCF Non Football regular season telecast since 2022. Most watched #UCF Non Football/Men Hoops Regular season telecast since 2019. Sunday night's viewers (194K) Nearly doubled UCF-Georgia Tech Football (107K). https://t.co/NMKg5bjlfz— Eric Lopez (@EricLopezELO) February 23, 2023
UCF Softball’s win over Mississippi State in Clearwater on February 19th was watched by 194,000 viewers on ESPN2. It was the second-most watched softball game of the tournament behind only the Alabama-UCLA game that aired on ESPN according to ESPNPR.
It is the most watched UCF non Football regular season telecast since 2022. More people watched UCF’s win over Mississippi State than they watched UCF’s Football win over Georgia Tech on September 24th (107K) which aired on ESPNU.
UCF returns to Clearwater for ESPN Tournament in 2024.
Cindy Ball Malone Gets To 250
Congratulations, Coach Bear!! pic.twitter.com/FNkhA9Zkhm— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) February 23, 2023
Cindy Ball-Malone got her 250th and 251st win in Thursday’s doubleheader wins over Gardner-Webb whose head coach ironically is Bailey Wigness who was Ball-Malone’s assistant coach at Boise State (2016-2018).
Ball-Malone will return to her home state of California this week as UCF will play in the Judi Garman Classic.