UCF falls to top ranked Seminoles (copy)

UCF junior infielder Jazmine Esparza (7) celebrates after reaching second base during a game against No. 1 Florida State on Sunday, March 3. The Knights fell to the Seminoles 2-1 at the UCF Softball Complex.

A dominant pitching performance and timely hitting led the UCF softball team to a 2-1 win over the UConn Huskies on Saturday afternoon at the UCF Softball Complex.

The victory marked the second win during the first weekend series of American Athletic Conference play, giving the Knights a chance to sweep the Huskies on Sunday. 

With the goal of winning the series now out of the way, junior first baseman Jazmine Esparza said the team is feeling good about what they have going into the series finale.

“It honestly gives us a lot of confidence," Esparza said. "We know what we have, and we know what our hitting can do. We have solid pitching, solid defense and we know how to pick each other up. We’re just gonna buy into the process and keep rolling with it.”

The key for the Knights in Saturday’s game was the gem of a performance in the circle by freshman pitcher Breanna Vasquez. From the first pitch, the right-hander was in control. In her AAC debut, she pitched a complete game, allowing just one unearned run on three hits and no walks while striking out seven.

“I felt like I was unstoppable kind of,” Vasquez said. “Coach Kendra [Lynch] was telling me, ‘Keep your foot on the gas, keep going and don’t stop.’ And just having my defense and my offense behind me — it was awesome. I felt really good.”

In the bottom of the first inning, the UCF offense gave Vasquez a lead to hold onto for the rest of the game. Redshirt junior third baseman Tamesha Glover hit a one-out double and later scored on a two-out single by Esparza.

The Knights kept the 1-0 lead throughout the middle innings of the game before picking up an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth. The second run also came with two outs, with Glover and senior catcher Cassady Brewer hitting back-to-back doubles.

“Our game is about timely hitting, and that’s definitely what we saw there,” UCF head coach Cindy Ball-Malone said. “We had two outs both times. The timely hitting, the clutch hits — if you’re gonna get them, that’s a good way to do it.”

Glover finished the day two-for-two with two doubles, a walk and two runs scored, raising her team-leading batting average to .402.

With back-to-back wins to start conference play, the Knights improved their overall record to 22-9. Much of that success has come courtesy of a strong one-two punch of pitchers in junior Alea White and Vasquez.

White, who pitched a complete-game shutout in the series opener, is 14-6 on the season with an ERA of 1.53. After Saturday’s complete-game effort, Vasquez is 8-3 with a 1.18 ERA.

Ball-Malone said the way the two pitchers feed off each other and provide different looks from the circle has been an important part of the team’s winning ways in 2019.

“[It’s] very important,” she said. “It used to be a pitcher’s game, where you could have one arm and go. But with the hitters these days, to have more options, it’s just such a blessing for us to have that.”

UCF will look for a three-game series sweep of UConn Sunday morning at the UCF Softball Complex. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m.

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