The transfer from Philadelphia College had the best start of her career against Eastern Michigan on Feb. 25. Schmidt pitched seven innings, allowing just five hits and one earned run with no walks while striking out a career-high 12. The 12 punch-outs were the most by any Knights’ pitcher this season.
Schmidt began the week by picking up a victory over Seton Hall on Feb. 24 after pitching seven innings and giving up four hits and one run. Schmidt also struck out a then-career best seven hitters against the Pirates. Schmidt also threw one perfect inning in a relief appearance against Jacksonville.
The conference honor is the first career award for Schmidt, who has been arguably the most pleasant surprise for head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie’s squad this season. Schmidt currently has a 3-1 record and leads the team with a 1.00 ERA. She has only allowed 27 hits in 35 innings and has recorded 30 strikeouts while holding opponents hitters to just a .208 batting average.
This is the first C-USA Softball Player of the Week award for the Knights since senior Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.) won the award in May 2011.
The Knights wound up the UCF & Courtyard by Marriott Invitational with a 4-1 record. Here is a recap of the games
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24
UCF 3, SETON HALL 1
Despite some early inning troubles, senior Ali Schmidt (Cordova, Md.) was dominant in her first-career home start. Schmidt allowed a lead-off double and a two-out RBI single in the second inning that allowed the Pirates to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. However, from that point forward, Schmidt was dominant and virtually unhittable.
The most experienced pitcher on the Knights’ staff, Schmidt retired 13 consecutive batters from the final out of the second inning through the final out of the sixth inning. Schmidt finished the complete-game victory allowing just four hits and one earned run with a career-best seven strikeouts and just one walk in seven innings pitched.
Schmidt was aided by several impressive defensive plays behind her as the Knights committed no errors and made multiple hit-saving stops.
Freshman Farrah Sullivan (Waynesboro, Miss.) made back-to-back plays in the fourth inning that robbed Pirates batters of base hits. Sullivan made a full-extension diving stop to her left on a well-hit ball, got up and made a perfect throw for the first out of the inning. On the very next pitch, Sullivan went deep into the hole toward the third-base bag going to her right this time, planted her feet, and threw a laser across the diamond to beat the runner by half a step.
The Black and Gold picked up their first run of the game in the fifth inning when senior Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) legged out an infield single and then promptly stole second base for her team-leading fifth swipe of the season. The Knights’ hottest hitter, junior Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.) drove Land in with a ripped stand-up triple into the right centerfield gap. Menendez is hitting a sizzling .368 on the season and has hit safely in 11 of the Knights’ first 12 games. Sullivan gave the Knights the lead they wouldn’t relinquish with a sacrifice fly to deep center for her team-leading eighth RBI.
UCF added a valuable insurance run in the fifth when freshman Maddy Schroeder used her speed to reach on an infield single to third base. Schroeder was sacrificed over to second and scored easily on Land’s RBI double down the right field line. Land finished the game 2-3 with a run scored and an RBI.
Seton Hall had a chance in the top of the seventh inning with runners at first and third with just one out. However, Schmidt made a very heads up play on a chopper back to the mound and easily threw out the runner breaking for home. Schmidt then induced a ground ball out to first base to end the game and earn her second victory of the season.
JACKSONVILLE 3, UCF 2
Once again, UCF rallied from a deficit to tie the game, only this time they could not reclaim the lead as they did earlier in the day against Seton Hall as they were defeated by Jacksonville 3-2. The Knights had multiple chances to break the game open with nine hits, but they stranded eight runners on base.
Junior Alex Hartshorn (Tampa, Fla.) made her third start of the season but just her first appearance since Feb. 17. Hartshorn made the most of her opportunity by keeping Dolphins’ hitters continuously off-balance with her mixture of drop balls, curves and changeups. The Knights’ No. 3 starter was forcing weak contact throughout the evening until she allowed a two-out, two-run home run to center in the fifth to give the Dolphins a one-run lead.
“Alex is very good at keeping batters off-balance. She doesn’t throw as hard as Mackenzie or Ali, but she has a very nice drop ball, probably the best on the team, and a good change up. Her change up was actually a pretty pitch, low and outside, but the hitter just made a great adjustment and was able to put a good swing on it and knock it out of the park,” Gillispie said.
The Black and Gold took a 1-0 lead in the third thanks to some very heady base running by senior Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.). After reaching on a fielding error, Swan was taking off for second as lead-off hitter Kahley Novak (Clermont, Fla.) hit a slow grounder to third. Novak beat the throw using her great speed and Swan wisely never broke stride, rounded second and slide safely into third taking two bases on a ball that never left the infield. Junior Danielle Brewer then knocked Swan in with an RBI groundout.
Facing another one-run deficit, the Knights managed to tie the game in the sixth inning. Senior Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) was plunked for a team-highest fourth time this season. The next hitter, junior Alena Murgatroyd (Lancaster, Calif.), who played for the first time since missing five games with a concussion, ripped a two-out double into left that scored Perez all the way from first and tied the game.
The Dolphins quickly bounced back in the seventh. After a walk and a fielder’s choice left two on with none out, Luers-Gillispie went to her bullpen and brought game-one starter Schmidt back into the game. Schmidt quickly got two outs and appeared close to getting out of the inning unscathed. However, Schmidt uncorked a wild pitch that plated the game-winning run for the Dolphins. The run was charged to Hartshorn and she picked up her second loss of the season.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25
UCF 2, FLORIDA GULF COAST 1
Freshman Mackenzie Audas (Plant City, Fla.) dazzled in her first-career home start by pitching a one-hitter to pick up her third victory of the season. Audas allowed a solo home run in the first inning but was dominant and literally unhittable from that point forward, retiring the next 20 Eagles without allowing a single hit.
The Knights’ freshman ace struck out eight Eagles on the afternoon as she increased her Conference USA-leading total to 49 in 52 innings this season. Audas also maintains a C-USA best .201 opponents batting average.
Freshman Madeline Schroeder (Jacksonville, Fla.) had a painful, but very productive day at the plate as she reached base three times. Schroeder was hit by a pitch in her first two at bats before reaching on an infield single in her third at bat. The Knights’ young designated player increased her on-base percentage to a strong .389 for the season.
The Black and Gold finally broke through in the fourth inning as freshman Farrah Sullivan (Waynesboro, Miss.) led off the inning with by working a walk. Sullivan was then lifted for pinch runner Lauren Aldridge (Vero Beach, Fla.), who advanced to second on a single up the middle by senior Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.).
After junior Alena Murgatroyd (Lancaster, Calif.) worked the second walk of the inning, senior Tawny Swan (Gilbert, Ariz.) provided the Knights with some much needed clutch hitting with runners in scoring position. Swan, who was hitting just .200 coming into the game, knocked a single just past the diving glove of the second baseman to plate Aldridge and Perez for UCF’s only runs of the game.
Audas only needed a one-run cushion to complete her masterful performance. Audas pitched a perfect sixth before finishing off the Eagles in style in the seventh with back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
UCF 7, EASTERN MICHIGAN 2
Senior Ali Schmidt (Cordova, Md.) weathered a rough second inning and bounced back with arguably her most dominant performance of the season. Schmidt picked up her third victory as she pitched seven innings while giving up just five hits and one earned run. Schmidt set career-best marks with 12 strikeouts and zero walks. Her 12 strikeouts were the most by any Knight in a game this season.
The Black and Gold jumped out to a quick first-inning lead and never looked back against the Eagles. UCF plated two runs in the inning as Novak used her speed to reach on an infield single and then stole her fifth base of the season to get into scoring position. After advancing to third on a tag up, Novak scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of junior Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.). Later in the inning, Sullivan hit an RBI single up the middle that knocked in Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.) from second. Land had two stolen bases and two runs scored on the day increasing her team lead in both categories to seven and eight respectively.
The Eagles tied the game at two in the top of the second inning. Schmidt had her only rough patch of the game as she allowed two hits, uncorked two wild pitches and hit a batter in the inning. Eastern Michigan successfully pulled off a delayed double steal of second and home to plate their second run and tie the game.
The Knights’ offense finally broke out in the third inning and gave Schmidt more than enough cushion with four big runs. Menendez worked a one-out walk and moved to second as Sullivan reached on an error. Perez was then hit by a pitch for the fifth time this season to load the bases. Perez now holds the all-time record in UCF history for hit by pitches with 12.
With the bases loaded and two outs, senior Lindsey Selmer (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) worked a walk for her third RBI of the season to give the Knights a 3-2 lead. Swan then stepped in and delivered her second clutch hit of the day as she ripped a triple down the right field line. Swan’s three-bagger gave UCF a 6-2 advantage and gave Swan five RBI for the day in the two games.
The Black and Gold tacked on an insurance run in the fourth as Sullivan again plated Land with an RBI single into right-center field. Sullivan went 3-4 with two RBI and increased her team-leading RBI total to 10 on the year.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26
UCF 4, EASTERN MICHIGAN 3
Freshman Mackenzie Audas (Plant City, Fla.) picked up her fourth win of the season and second win of the tournament despite not having her best stuff. Audas pitched seven innings and gave up five hits, three runs, with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Audas struggled with her command early in the game as she walked two hitters in the opening inning. Her wildness cost her the game's first run as the Eagles scored on an RBI single just over the glove of a leaping Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.).
The Black and Gold bounced back in the second inning as freshman Farrah Sullivan (Waynesboro, Miss.) hit a one-out double to left center. Sullivan was then lifted for pinch runner Lauren Aldridge (Vero Beach, Fla.) who was advanced to third on a single by senior Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.). Junior Alena Murgatroyd (Lancaster, Calif.) stepped in next and crushed a triple into the right centerfield gap that scored both runners and gave the Knights a 2-1 lead.
In the third inning junior Danielle Brewer (Apopka, Fla.) hit a towering solo home run over the left field wall to give the Knights a 3-1 lead. Brewer is now tied for the team lead with two home runs on the season.
For the second time during the tournament, the Knights allowed a double steal of second and home. The heady base running by the Eagles brought them within a run of the lead in the fifth.
UCF added a crucial insurance run in the bottom of the fifth as Murgatroyd again knocked in Perez with a triple into almost the exact same spot in the right centerfield gap as her triple in the third inning. Murgatroyd was 2-for-3 on the day with two triples and three RBI and she leads the team with a .536 slugging percentage.
Murgatroyd's second triple proved to be the difference maker as the Eagles plated their third run of the game in the seventh inning after two doubles. Eastern Michigan put the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second with two outs before Audas focused in and finished off the game in style with a strikeout.
The Knights returned to action on Tuesday with another matchup against Eastern Michigan before hosting another tournament, The UCF & Holiday Inn Select Spring Fling beginning Friday morning. UCF fans can follow all the action on UCF All-Access with live video and the voice of UCF softball, Eric Lopez. Fans can also follow on UCFAthletics.com Gametracker as well as www.twitter.com/UCF_Softball.
The Black and Gold have 24 home games remaining at the UCF Softball Complex, with season tickets for the 2012 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.
Here is this weekend’s schedule:
UCF & HOLIDAY INN SELECT SPRING FLING
FRIDAY, MARCH 2
11 a.m. _ Penn vs. University of Illinois-Chicago
1 p.m. _ Penn vs. UCF
3 p.m. UIC vs. Stetson
5 p.m. _ Jacksonville vs. UCF
SATURDAY, MARCH 3
9:30 a.m. _ Jacksonville vs. Penn
11:30 a.m. Jacksonville vs. UIC
2 p.m. _ Stetson vs. Penn
4 p.m. _ UIC vs. UCF
6 p.m. _ Stetson vs. UCF
SUNDAY, MARCH 4
9 a.m. _ Penn vs. Jacksonville
11 a.m. _ UIC vs. Stetson