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Willis Throws Perfect Game as UCF Softball Sweeps Houston

Sarah Willis throws first 7-inning perfect game In UCF Softball history

The UCF Knights Softball team swept the Houston Cougars in a historic final American Athletic Conference series ever played at the UCF Softball Complex to improve to 33-19 on the season. The Knights have now won 14 of their last 15 games. The Knights outscored the Cougars 19-2 in the sweep.

Lets go around the bases:

1st: Perfect Knight

Sarah Willis did something no UCF pitcher has ever done in a 7 inning game: Be PERFECT! Willis threw the first seven-inning perfect game in UCF history in a 7-0 win over Houston on Friday night.

It is the 3rd-ever perfect game in program history. as Willis joined Pysha Simmons and Taylor Sawyer who threw 5-inning run-rule perfect games in 24-0 and 11-0 victories over Morris Brown (Feb. 2, 2003) and Bucknell (March 13, 2003), respectively.

Willis followed her perfect game with her second complete-game shutout in two days, holding the Cougars to just two hits in seven innings in a 4-0 win to push her scoreless inning streak to 26. In total, Willis threw 14 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and limiting Houston to a .047 batting average.

On Tuesday, Willis became the 3rd Knight pitcher ever to win NFCA National Pitcher of the Week, joining Gianna Mancha (2021), and Shelby Turnier (2015).

Willis enters the regular season’s final weekend with a 0.67 ERA (52 IP, 5 ER) through her first 10 appearances (nine starts) in AAC play which should make her the favorite to win the AAC Pitcher of Year Award.

2nd: Kennedy Searcy Leads The Way

Kennedy Searcy went 7/11 with 4 RBI in in the three-game sweep of Houston.

Since March 29, when Searcy was put in the lead-off spot, UCF has won 14 of 15 games and Searcy has reached base in 13 of the 15 games with a hit in 10 of them. Oh, and she made this catch to save Willis’ Perfect Game:

3rd: Chloe Evans Is a Triple Threat

Chloe Evans is having the one of greatest offense seasons any Knight has ever had. Evans currently leads the team with 42 RBI, which is tied for 8th-most by any Knight ever. She is in the top five in the NCAA in triples with 7, which is one behind Tiffany Lane (2009) for most triples in a single season by a Knight. Evans is also second on the team in doubles with 13 behind Aubrey Evans (15), who both are chasing single-season school record of 16 doubles.

Evans leads the Knights in slugging pct with .619 which puts her on pace to be the 5th Knight to slug at least .600, joining Stephanie Best (2002-2005), Jania Shinhoster (2002), Jasmine Esparza (2021) and Jada Cody (2022).

Home: Time for The Plex to Expand

UCF hosted its final regular season home game on Sunday, which was the last AAC game played at the UCF Softball Complex.

UCF ranks 14th in the country in fan capacity percentage filled (97%) and in the top 30 in total attendance despite only a capacity of 600. Last year, UCF was at 112% capacity, which was 4th best in the country.

Football is the only other UCF sport with 90% or higher capacity. No other UCF sport has a capacity percentage higher than 53%, which means the other sports have space. Three of the top 10 softball crowds ever happened this season.

Here are the Top 10 highest-attended UCF Softball home games, with this year’s games in bold:

  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. March 25, 2023 vs. #22 Wichita State 1,082
  10. April 6, 2016 vs. #2 Florida — 1,064

The numbers would have been bigger had weather not impacted game times the last two weeks. Knight fans have sent complaints over the years about the lack of shade and seat capacity for games starting in early afternoons, and stated that they would go to more games if the Plex was renovated. This is important right now with the growth of interest in the program from the community and a home slate in 2024 that will be the greatest home schedule ever. A Big 12 home slate is almost a gurantee that two of Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas, and Oklahoma will come to the Plex.

UCF will need to take advantage of the buzz the program has and plan for bigger crowds in Big 12 games, with most bringing radio broadcasts. UCF can take advantage and make more revenue by upgrading the Plex.