March 12, 2011
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By Sarah Tarasewicz
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Junior Allie Jest (Stone Mountain, Ga.) tied the UCF program record with a hit in her 15th-straight game to help the UCF (8-17, 1-1 C-USA) softball team to a Conference USA doubleheader split vs. UTEP (12-10, 1-1 C-USA) Saturday afternoon at the UCF Softball Complex. The Knights won the first contest, 2-1, before falling in the nightcap, 3-2.
Jest extended her streak to 14 games with a hit in her first at-bat in the opening game, but it wasn't until the bottom of the seventh inning that Jest tied Breanne Javier's record of 15-consecutive games with a hit with a single up the middle of the infield in the nightcap. The junior has now hit safely in 21 of her 22 games played this season and boasts a team-best .380 batting average.
"I have been pretty confident at the plate so far this season," Jest said. "Today I was just going up there every time taking a deep breath, looking at the pitcher and hitting the ball as hard as I could up the middle. As long as I keep putting the ball in play they have to work hard to get me out, because I'm pretty fast."
Game One - UCF 2, UTEP 1
Junior Lacey Dinney (Binbrook, Ont.) allowed only one run on four hits and struck out four in the circle to lead the Knights to a 2-1 victory over the Miners in their first league contest of the season in the opening game. The hurler improved her record to 5-4 on the year and also dropped her season ERA to 2.83.
"It was a good game today," Dinney said of her performance. "My pitches were really moving and I was doing my best to keep their hitters off balance, and it turned out successful."
Offensively, fellow junior Allie Jest (Stone Mountain, Ga.) went 2-for-3 with a RBI and two stolen bases to lead the Black and Gold, while sophomore Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) added a hit and posted the game-winning RBI.
"I wasn't trying to do much, I was just going up there wanting to hit the ball hard into play," Menendez said of her game-winning hit. "And it turned out that it fell in the right spot."
Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.), Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) and Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) also contributed hits against the Miners, with both Land and Perez touching home safely in the contest.
Thanks to a two-out RBI single down the left field line by Jest, the Knights took an early 1-0 lead on the visiting Miners in the second inning. Perez led things off with a one-out single through the right side of the infield and advanced to second on a single through the left side off the bat of Lane to set up Jest's single.
UCF extended its lead to two runs in the third inning when Land scored on Menendez's two-out RBI single to left centerfield. Land reached earlier in the frame on a single down the left field line and moved into scoring position by stealing second base. Menendez's base knock allowed the speedy infielder to score from the top of the diamond.
The visiting Miners cut UCF's lead in half with their first run of the contest in the top of the sixth inning, but it was not enough as the Black and Gold held on for the victory in its league opener.
Game Two - UCF 2, UTEP 3
In the nightcap, senior Diana Rojas (Miami, Fla.) allowed three runs, only two of which were earned, on six hits and struck out three batters in the circle despite getting tagged with the, 3-2, loss to the Miners to fall to 3-6 on the season.
Four different Knights posted hits in the contest, with Perez posting a single and accounting for UCF's lone RBI. Lane tallied a hit and scored a run, while Jest and Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa) also recorded hits in the contest.
UTEP took a three-run lead in the top of the second inning after scoring three runs on five hits, but the Knights cut the lead to two runs when Lane singled, advanced to second on a putout, stole third and touched home safely on a throwing error by the Miners' second baseman.
The home team continued to chip away at the Miners' lead with another run in the fourth inning after Land led off the frame with a walk and a two-out walk allowed to Kellie Todd (Ocala, Fla.) put two runners on for Perez. The junior laced a single up the middle of the infield to bring Land around to score and put the Black and Gold within one run of the visiting team, 3-2.
UCF had a chance to even the score in the bottom of the fifth after loading the bases on a pair of walks and a single through the left side off the bat of McClain, but UTEP starter Megan Atchison was able to get Menendez to ground out to the right side to end the Knights' threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Lane walked to lead off the inning and Jest hit a screamer up the middle of the infield to put two runners on. A grounder to the shortstop advanced both runners into scoring position with only one out, but the Miners were once again able to work their way out of the pickle to pick up the win.
UCF concludes its three-game league series vs. UTEP Sunday at 12 p.m., with all youth ages 12 and under with their Little League uniform admitted into the contest free of charge for Little League Softball Day.
The first 200 youth ages 12 and under through the gate wearing their Little League uniform will receive a pack of UCF Silly Bandz, while all fans will have the opportunity to participate in softball bingo, trivia and the UCF t-shirt toss during the game. Following the contest, participants will be invited to interact with members of the UCF softball team and will have the opportunity to get autographs from their favorite players.
The Knights have 13 home games remaining on their 2011 schedule, including a contest vs. in-state rival Florida State on April 6, with season tickets for the season costing only $40. Tickets are available for purchase online at UCFAthletics.com and Ticketmaster.com, or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) UCF-1000.