After falling short to the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles on Sunday, the UCF softball team couldn’t rally in time during Monday's rematch, leading to a 9-3 loss at the UCF Softball Complex.
Despite the loss, UCF head coach Cindy Ball-Malone said there are some positive things to take from the game, including the effort from freshman pitcher Breanna Vasquez.
“I loved how she came out attacking them right away in the first inning,” Ball-Malone said. “She kind of had a freshman moment here and there, but she got hit pretty hard when she took a ball to the knee. I loved the game face that she had. I loved how she stuck in there.”
The defending national champion Seminoles, who improved to 22-0 on the year with the win, started the scoring in the top of the second inning.
After Vazquez issued a two-out walk to FSU junior pitcher Cassidy Davis, FSU outfielder Dani Morgan connected on a two-run home run to left field.
The home run ended Vasquez’s streak of just over 39 innings without allowing an earned run, which Ball-Malone applauded after the game.
“That’s hard to do for anyone, so for her to do that against the competition that we’ve been playing — we have a very tough schedule — it just speaks to what she can do and who she is as a pitcher,” Ball-Malone said. “I still don’t think that she’s close to the potential of the pitcher that she’s gonna be here in her career.”
Vasquez worked in and out of trouble in the third inning before surrendering two more runs in the fourth. She departed after three innings, giving up four earned runs on five hits and five walks.
Vasquez struck out three batters during the game but suffered her first loss since Feb. 8.
UCF freshman pitcher Ashley Stephenson relieved Vasquez in the fourth inning, allowing three runs on two hits and a walk in just over two innings.
Junior pitcher Kiana East made her first appearance as a Knight during the sixth inning, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.
Ball-Malone said she liked the way the pitchers got out of jams and worked against a tough Florida State lineup.
“You take the big swings away and it’s a really close ballgame,” she said.
The Knights — who fell to 12-7 with the loss — couldn’t get enough big swings of their own in the first six innings to take down the Seminoles. By the seventh inning, the Knights left six on base and struggled to find clutch hits to hang around with the Seminoles.
Already trailing 9-0, UCF found the necessary offense in the bottom of the seventh.
UCF senior left-fielder Brooke Barlow led with her first home run of the season to get UCF on the board, then the top of the lineup started a two-out rally.
Three-straight singles loaded the bases for the Knights before junior first baseman Jazmine Esparza delivered a two-run single to bring the score to 9-3.
However, the late rally wasn’t enough to defeat the Seminoles.
“I liked the way we played free in that last inning,” Ball-Malone said. “I think we need to learn how to do that all innings, all situations and we’re gonna like the outcome a lot more.”
UCF returns to the UCF Softball Complex Wednesday to host Boston College, with the first pitch set for 6 p.m.