“In the ninth inning, I think that Hillary was just so frustrated with her last three at bats that she decided to do something about it,” head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. “She made some minor adjustments to her swing before that at bat and it was nice to see a senior come up and get a huge hit to win a big game for us.”
The win improved the Knights’ record to 4-1 in league play and 17-11 overall, while the Cougars dropped to 3-3 in C-USA action and to 15-12 on the year.
With the sweep over Houston, the Black and Gold is off to its best start in conference play since joining the league for the 2006 season, while it also marked the first time in program history that UCF swept a C-USA series from the Cougars.
“Now that we are ahead in the conference, it’s going to be a different mentality for us,” Gillispie said. “Now we are the ones with the target on our back, which takes away our ability to sneak up on teams. But, if we can play all of our games with the energy and intensity in which we played this weekend, I think we will be able to beat anybody.”
UCF’s Ashleigh Cole (Pace, Fla.) and Houston’s Amanda Crabtree battled hard in the circle for both squads, as they combined to allow only one run on nine hits between them. But, it was Cole who won the pitching battle to pick up her first complete-game shutout of 2010. The senior gave up only four hits, struck out a season-high eight batters and did not give up a walk in 9.0 innings of work to improve her record to 11-6 on the season.
“Every time Ashleigh goes out to the mound she gets stronger and stronger,” Luers-Gillispie said. “Even though the conditions weren’t perfect out there today, she hung tight and really controlled the tempo of the game.”
On the offensive front, Barrow was one of five Knights to post a hit in the contest with her home run in the ninth. Also recorded knocks for the Black and Gold were Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.), Mary Helen Tyler (Marianna, Fla.), Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) and Cole.
“I knew when I got up that I just needed to sit back on the ball one second longer and it would go,” Barrow said of the game-winning shot. “She threw me the exact pitch that I wanted to hit and I made the adjustment and took advantage of it.”
Land’s single to left field in the first inning extended her season and team-best hitting streak to nine games. The sophomore is now only one game away from matching her career-high 10-game hitting run that she posted as a freshman last season from April 4-19, while also sitting six games out from the UCF record of 15 set by Breanne Javier in 2008.
Neither team could register a timely hit in the contest off of the two aces, with UCF stranding five runners on base and Houston leaving eight runners on base.
The Knights had opportunities to score in both the fifth and eighth innings with runners in scoring position, while the Cougars threatened in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings. But, it was Barrow and the Black and Gold who finally posted the hit when it counted the most.
UCF is back in action this week as it wraps up its 17-game homestand with contests against No. 17 Ohio State and Cornell. The Knights will face off with the Buckeyes and the Big Red Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, while also facing Cornell in a single game Thursday at 3 p.m.