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UCF Softball Advances to Super Regionals for First Time in School History

It’s been a magical season on the diamond for the 16th ranked UCF Knights, who are 49-12 after back-to-back wins over 24th ranked Michigan this weekend.

ORLANDO - UCF Softball is on the high of hosting and winning its first NCAA Regional.

"They've done it. We're not done; we're definitely not done.” Said Head Coach Cindy Ball-Malone “(I'm) just so proud of the fight of this team. I'm super proud of these women and what they've done and the odds that they've fought against. The show keeps going."

Saturday’s game, the first of the two, was a 3-2 thriller that went to extra innings and was sealed by some clutch plays from UCF’s young core. Jada Cody’s over-the-shoulder catch made ESPN’s Top Plays and Maddie Berajano brought home the tying run in the seventh inning before roping one down the right field line to bring home the winning runner in walk-off fashion. It was a win that showed their grit and unity, something they’ll need plenty of going forward.

Sunday’s 9-4 victory, although less dramatic as UCF never trailed, held a bit more meaning for the Knights. Their triumph over Michigan in the Orlando Regional Final means that they’ve advanced to the Super Regional stage of the NCAA Softball Tournament for the first time in program history.

Michigan looked defeated during Sunday’s final matchup, and they struggled on the mound, walking in four runs. With the Wolverines pitchers unable to find the strike zone, the Knights were able to jump out to a quick lead and never looked back. "Walks are just as big as a base hit or a homerun to me," said Ball-Malone of their performance against the Wolverines, "They're passing a bag, putting runners on and putting runners across. Those two pitchers especially are both All-Americans. They're tough.”

Under Coach Ball-Malone, who was hired in the summer of 2018, the Knights softball program has flourished and is in the midst of its best postseason ever. 2022 marks Ball-Malone’s second consecutive 40-win season and her team looks hungry for more. Led by sophomore utility player Jada Cody, a .363 batter on the season with 14 home runs, this young Knights team will have their work cut out for them in the first round of the Super Regionals as they are slated to face a perennial powerhouse, the top-seeded, defending champion Oklahoma Sooners.

Oklahoma leads the country in just about every conceivable statistic. Batting average, earned run average, home runs, scoring, shutouts, and many more. That’s without even mentioning the Sooners’ individual statistics, many of which are also league best. Oklahoma has been ranked number one all season and totes a 52-2 record. It’s an admittedly impressive resume, but it doesn’t mean that these Big 12 juggernauts are unbeatable. And if there’s any team scrappy and talented enough to take them down, it’s this UCF squad.

Cody isn’t the only hitting threat in the dugout, as the Knights have six players batting over .300 averages. Sophomores Kennedy Searcy and Shannon Doherty have hit six and seven home runs, respectively, and have each brought in over 30 runners (RBIs) on the season. While the bats have certainly provided a huge spark this season, UCF’s biggest strength may be their pair of senior ace pitchers that have toyed with batters all year.

Giana Mancha and Kama Woodall have been two of the best mound managers in softball this year. Both boast a sub-two earned run average (Mancha-1.62, Woodall-1.88) and are in the top 60 for that category out of all college pitchers. Mancha, who’s 1.62 ERA ranks 27th in the NCAA, has a 23-3 record and 186 strikeouts so far. Woodall also has over 100 punch outs (103) and has only walked 48 batters all year. The Knights will need both right-handers to be on their A-game if UCF wants to have a chance at playing the David to Oklahoma’s Goliath and knocking out the superpowered Sooners.

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Game 1 of this Super Regional matchup will take place on May 27th at 4:30pm, with Game 2 on the following day and then Game 3 on the 29th (if necessary). The first team to notch two victories will punch their ticket to the Women’s College World Series. These Knights have gone toe-to-toe with every opponent they’ve faced in 2022 and their first ever Super Regional should be a spectacle that UCF fans won’t want to miss. 

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