GAINESVILLE, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Despite a two-hitter from Mackenzie Audas, the third-seeded UCF softball team (39-18) lost 1-0 to second-seeded South Florida (46-11) in the quarterfinals of the Gainesville Regional on Friday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
The Knights will play tomorrow against the loser of the Florida-Florida Gulf Coast matchup at 3 p.m.
"It was just a great game. We came in thinking that this was a great opportunity to see South Florida since we hadn't played them in five years. Mac had a great game - especially with this being her first regional appearance," head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. "We knew what to expect when we came into this game - we knew it was going to be a tight game, and that we would have to play our very best coming into this. We'll regroup tonight and focus on our game tomorrow against either Florida or Florida Gulf Coast."
The much-anticipated pitching duel between Audas and sophomore Sara Nevins did not disappoint the capacity crowd of 1,345 in attendance. Audas pitched six innings and did not allow a hit until there were two outs in the fifth inning. Audas finished the game allowing one run on two hits while striking out nine. Nevins matched Audas by going six and 2/3rd innings and allowing four hits, two walks with 10 strikeouts.
The Knights had a chance early in the game as senior Natalie Land led off the first inning with an infield single. Land swiped second on the next pitch to move into scoring position. With two outs and Land on third, the Bulls intentionally walked freshman Farrah Sullivan. Sullivan was then lifted for pinch runner Lauren Aldridge who also stole second to get into scoring position. Aldridge, used primarily this season a runner, improved to 8-for-8 on the season in steals. UCF, however, was unable to score in the inning after a two-out strikeout.
USF took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly to right field by Janine Richardson. The Bulls loaded the bases after Audas issued two walks and hit a batter. With the bases loaded and one out, Richardson lifted a fly ball just into foul territory in right field. Senior Tawny Swan came up with the catch and fired a strike to the plate that was on target, but just slightly late as the runner slid in before the tag.
The Black and Gold's best chance to score came in the top of the sixth as Land led off with another infield single. Just like the first frame, Land stole second base to move into scoring position. The steal was Land's second of the game, 43rd of the season, and 102nd of her career, putting her just two steals away from tying the Conference USA all-time career record.
With Land at second, the Bulls once again decided to intentionally walk Sullivan to put two runners on. The two intentional passes were the first two of Sullivan's career. Swan then drew a two-out walk to load the bases. Freshman Hayley Barrow stepped in and hit a rocket shot down the third base line that was the hardest hit ball by either team in the game. However, the ball never reached the outfield as senior third baseman Jessica Mouse made a full-extension leaping catch to end the inning and save two runs.
UCF put one final rally together in the top of the seventh. Junior Danielle Brewer led off the inning with an infield single and pinch hitter Lindsay Selmer reached on error by the Bulls first baseman. However, with one out the Knights grounded into a game-ending 5-3 double play giving the Bulls the win in the opening game.
The Knights are now 5-7 all-time in the NCAA tournament under Luers-Gillispie.