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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Softball

Top spot in conference on the line with UCF series


The softball team and the UCF Knights are almost equal statistically, but one will bend with the top conference spot on the line. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

Conference play has officially started for the softball team, and with a 2-1 record, it is starting out tied for second place with the Memphis Tigers.

Returning to Cougar Softball Stadium this weekend, the Cougars will host the first place UFC Knights. With near-identical records, the 21-10 Cougars will have their work cut out for them when the Knights bring their 22-12 record into Houston.

The Cougars’ best chance of victory comes when they score at least five runs and push out consistent pitching on the mound. That goal will be put to the test, as the Knights have only allowed an average of 2.3 runs over the course of their last 10 games.

Statistically, this game will be a battle of two pitching rotations in the midst of finding their grooves.

Junior starting pitcher Savannah Heebner has been dominant this season, ranking in the top 20 nationally in ERA, wins and shutouts. As commanding as she has been on the mound, the Knights boast a pitcher who can stand toe-to-toe with her.

Freshman Alea White has been a force on the mound for UCF, posting a 1.78 ERA to go along with 16 complete games and more than 100 strikeouts. White is also 16-7 this season, making her tied for second in the nation in wins.

On the other side, Heebner has posted a 0.81 ERA, thrown 11 complete games and struck out 74 batters on the season.

At the plate, the Cougars and the Knights are evenly matched. Both teams have hit for exactly 17 home runs this season. However, the Cougars boast three different players that have recorded at least 16 RBIs on the season. The Knights can claim only two. The Cougars have a slightly higher batting average as a team this season than the Knights (.294-.265).

Where it seems like the Knights may have the distinct advantage during this series is on the base paths. The Cougars have only recorded eight stolen bases this season on 12 attempts. The Knights have more than tripled that, recording 27 stolen bases on 36 attempts. Both teams are successful 75 percent of the time, but the Knights are much more aggressive, a fact that could turn the series in their favor.

Sophomore infielder Sarah Queen will look to build off of the momentum she accrued last weekend after hitting six RBIs in her last two games, bringing her total to 22 in 31 games played, complimented by her .398 batting average and her six home runs on the season.

If the Cougars can get their bats going early and often over the next three days, they may win against one of the toughest teams they have faced all season.

First pitch times are as follows: 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and noon Saturday. All games will be played at Cougar Softball Stadium.

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