The UCF softball team got a stiffer challenge in its doubleheader against Hillsborough Community College and Rollins, but for the second and third times this fall the Knights' pitching staff rose to the occasion and combined to not allow a run.
UCF shutout the Lady Hawks 2-0 in game one and came back with a second shutout, 4-0, in the nightcap over the Tars. Over the course of 14 innings, Knights' pitchers only allowed four hits and two walks while striking out an incredible 23.
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Sophomore Mackenzie Audas has been flat out dominant during the fall season. Audas threw eight combined innings in the two games and allowed one hit, one walk while striking out an incredible 17 batters. The battle for the No. 2 starter job continues to be intense as senior Alex Hartshorn allowed two hits over four scoreless innings with five strikeouts and freshman Shelby Turner also tossed two innings of one hit ball.
"We're going to be a team that relies on our pitching all year long," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said after the games. "We really feel we've got one of the best No. 1 starters in the country in Mac. She's going to be our workhorse, but behind her we have total confidence in Shelby and Alex. Shelby came in with a lot of hype, but Alex has really stepped her game up. She's not conceding that spot easily."
Offensively, the star of camp continues to be sophomore Kahley Novak. Novak combined to go 5-for-6 with a run scored and two RBI in the doubleheader. She appears more confident and comfortable at the plate than she was during her freshman season when she hit .278 and stole 17 bases while starting every game.
"You really can't say enough of how good Kahley's been this so far this fall," Luers-Gillispie continued. "I don't see any reason why she can't be a force at the top of the lineup both in terms of hitting for average and on the base paths. She has been our best hitter by far thus far."
The battles for starting spots continue to be fierce with as many as five positions in the lineup still up for grabs with multiple players battling it out for playing time. With just two fall ball games remaining before the UCF World Series on Tuesday Oct. 30 to Thursday Nov. 1, players are doing whatever it takes to show off the kind of versatility and skills necessary to force the coaching staff's hand for playing time.
"This year more than many other years we've had in the past, the competition has just been outstanding," Luers-Gillispie concluded. "We are trying out ladies at many different positions just to see who can handle which spot the best. By the time February rolls around, we think the cream will rise to the top and we'll have the best nine players out there."