“I knew the pitcher was going to throw me a rise ball because I swing and missed two earlier in the at bat,” Barrow said. “So I made the adjustment and kept getting my hands up higher and higher, and when she threw the rise ball I just got on top of it and it went out. When I knew that it was over all I could feel was excitement and then a little bit of relief. It made me feel good to be able to give (Ashleigh) Cole a little breathing room with a good lead behind her.”
With the victory the Knights advance to the Regional Semifinal Saturday at 1 p.m. against No. 4-overall seed Florida. The winner of that contest will advance to the Regional final Sunday at 1 p.m.
“I thought we did a great job of taking control of the game early today,” head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. “We were really heads up in our base running and took advantage of balls in the dirt and change ups. That put us in the position to score when we needed to.”
Barrow put together one of the best performances of her career in the contest against the Golden Panthers, going 2-for-3 with a home run, one run scored, a walk, a stolen base and matched her career-best with five RBI. Barrow also posted five RBI just a mere two weeks ago on the road at UTEP on May 8, while hitting the only other grand slam of her career on March 25 at home against Cornell.
Also adding to the Knights’ five-hit total in the contest were Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.), Ashleigh Cole (Pace, Fla.) and Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.), with each eventually scoring in the inning of which they posted the hits.
Senior Mary Helen Tyler (Marianna, Fla.) scored twice for the Black and Gold, while adding a sacrifice bunt and a walk, and Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) tallied the Knights’ only other RBI besides Barrow’s five. Morgan Bullard (Columbia, S.C.) also swiped a pair of bases in the contest.
Besides producing at the plate, Cole also shined in the circle for UCF, allowing only one run on five hits while striking out three in a complete-game outing. The win over FIU improved Cole’s record to 24-13 on the season and dropped her overall ERA to 1.46.
“Ashleigh did a great job of keeping FIU off balance, because they are such an aggressive hitting team,” Luers-Gillispie said. “She also was very successful in working in her change up and hitting her marks on the mound. I think that was a big key to us getting the win.”
The game started off on a high note for the Knights as Lane opened their half of the first inning with a single up the middle of the infield, advanced to second on an illegal pitch delivered by Kasey Barrett and moved to third on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Land. Barrow stepped to the plate with only one out and stroked a single up the middle to bring Lane in to score and give UCF an early, 1-0, lead.
For the second-straight inning, UCF had its leadoff batter get on base when Cole posted a single to left field to open the second frame. Tyler laid down the sacrifice bunt, but FIU elected to go to second on the play and pinch runner Ashley Schmitt (Tampa, Fla.) slid in safely to put two runners on with no outs. Barrett then plunked Perez with a pitch to load the bases with nobody out. The hurler was able to muster two outs with a pair of strikeouts, but it was the keen eye of Land that brought another run across for UCF as she drew a bases-loaded RBI walk to give UCF a 2-0 lead. The Black and Gold then extended its lead to six runs when Barrow crushed a home run over the left field fence to tally her second grand slam of her career and knock Barrett out of the contest.
UCF’s bats cooled slightly after the second inning, as the squad continued to put runners on base, but just could not get a timely hit to extent its lead. The Knights were held scoreless through three full innings, but had runners on in all but one.
The Golden Panthers managed to plate a single run in the top of the sixth inning following a single by Ashley McClain and a RBI double off the bat of Brie Rojas, but the Knights took the run back in the bottom of the frame on a bases-loaded wild pitch that brought Tyler in to score. The right fielder started off the inning with a lead-off walk and Perez moved her to second with a single to centerfield. An error by FIU’s third baseman loaded the bases, before the wild pitch gave UCF the 7-1 advantage.
That score would be all the Black and Gold needed to take the opening round win from the Golden Panthers as Cole and the defense shut FIU down in the top of the seventh to seal the victory.
The regional winners will advance to super regional competition for a best-of-three series May 28-29 at eight campus sites.