UCF softball captures second AAC tournament championship – Orlando Sentinel - bdsthanhhoavn.com

UCF softball captures second AAC tournament championship – Orlando Sentinel

A year ago, UCF softball fell short of its goal of winning an American Athletic Conference tournament championship losing to Wichita State 7-4 in last season’s final.

The Knights returned to the championship Saturday in Greenville, N.C., and took care of business this time defeating their rival South Florida 11-0 in five innings to capture the program’s first AAC tournament title since 2015.

UCF’s Jada Cody and Shannon Doherty each hit three-run home runs while Kama Woodall pitched five shutout innings en route to the program’s fourth overall conference tournament title.

This year’s tournament championship by UCF joins the program’s 2005 Atlantic Sun, 2008 Conference-USA and 2015 AAC tournament titles.

UCF softball captured its first AAC tournament championship since 2015 in convincing fashion 11-0 over USF in Greenville, N.C. Saturday.

“It’s everything,” UCF coach Cindy Ball-Malone said on winning the tournament title. “With this group, as a coach, I like to be in the moment but my job is to have a forward vision.

“This group has said it from day one, they want to win the regular season, they want to win the conference tournament and host regionals.”

The Knights (46-12) accomplished both of the first goals mentioned by their coach, and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but will have to wait until Sunday night to find out if they’ll host an NCAA regional.

UCF, who entered the weekend ranked No. 17 in the country by three major softball media outlets, will learn their spot in the NCAA tournament Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. The top 16 seeds host a regional.

The 11 runs by UCF set a tournament record for the AAC championship final and marked the first time that the championship game ended with the eight-run rule.

The Knights scored early and often with Doherty blasting a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. Johneisha Rowe batted in Denali Schappacher scored from second to make it 4-0 after the first.

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Cody, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, reached 69 RBIs on the year with her three-run home in the bottom of the second inning to pass Stephanie Best’s 2003 single-season record of 66 RBIs.

Cody’s 12th home run of the season gave UCF a 7-0 lead through two innings.

Holding USF (44-14) to just three hits, the Knights added four more runs in the bottom of the fourth.

Ashleigh Griffin singled with the bases loaded to score Maddie Bejarano to make it 8-0. An error by USF let another run score before Justene Molina hit a 2 RBI single with two outs giving UCF an 11-0 lead heading to the fifth.

The Bulls were unable to get on the scoreboard all game long and the Knights ended the game in five innings with the eight-run rule to capture the elusive tournament championship.

“Seeing how they’re so adamant about what they want to do and how they want to do it shows that they’ve bought in 100 percent,” Ball-Malone said. “[I’m] super proud of them. We are who we are because we are diverse and dynamic.”

Email Jason Beede at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @therealBeede.

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