Softball Bested by UIC, UCF on Opening Day

UIC 4, Penn 3 Box Score

UCF 8, Penn 3 Box Score

ORLANDO, Fla. - Competing against tough and seasoned competition right out of the gates, softball suffered a pair of defeats to open the 2012 season. The Quakers took a 3-1 lead into the final inning against UIC (8-7), a NCAA qualifier from a season ago; however, the Flames rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk-off with the 4-3 win. In game two, UCF (10-7) used a four-run second inning to pace its 8-3 victory.

UIC 4, Penn 3

The Quakers were unable to get anything going in the top-half of the first inning and UIC looked to be getting on the scoreboard in the first inning with a leadoff single back through the middle followed by a walk. A pitch in the dirt allowed the runners to move to second and third with nobody out, but Mikenzie Voves would strand them as she induced three consecutive ground balls to get through the heart of the order with no damage.

Penn had its first scoring chance when Brooke Coloma reached on an error. After two outs, Samantha Erosa reached on a hit by pitch, putting runners on first and second. With two down, Kristen Johnson lined out right at the right fielder to end Penn's threat in the second. The Flames again started the second with a leadoff walk, but Voves would get through the inning with two more groundouts, capped off by a strikeout.

The Quakers would get on the scoreboard first in the top of the fourth. Sydney Turchin led off, singling in her first collegiate at-bat. She would then get all the way to third when the ball got past the left fielder and to the wall. After an out with Turchin still on third, Stephanie Caso grounded out to shortstop, but got the RBI as Turchin scored on the play.

After just one runner reached for each side in the bottom of the third and top of the fourth, UIC again threatened in the bottom of the fourth. Following a leadoff double, Voves forced a groundout to first that was unable to advance the runner. A one-out sacrifice bunt was successful in putting the runner on third with two outs. The Flames would draw a walk to put runners on the corners, but Voves again induced the grounder and Penn escaped the inning.

With just the one-run lead, the Quakers added to that total in their half of the fifth. Erosa led off the inning with a double into left field and Johnson followed that at-bat with a single through the left side, putting runners on the corners. Turchin would then lay down the bunt to try and score the run. The Flames came home with the play and Erosa avoided the tag by the catcher, while Johnson and Turchin moved to second and third with the defense shifting around on the bunt. Elysse Gorney would then get the second run of the inning home with a RBI groundout to short for Penn's final tally in the inning. UIC would get one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning when they got a timely two-out single to score a runner from second, making the score 3-1 heading to the sixth.

Both sides were retired in order in the sixth inning and Penn would get runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the seventh, but were unable to add to the lead. The Flames started the seventh with a single, followed by a double, which brought Jen Retzer out of the bullpen to try and slam the door. Retzer would get the ground ball, but a defensive lapse allowed each of the runners to advance a base, cutting the score to 3-2. A sacrifice fly would then tie the game at three-all.

The Quakers would get a force play for the second out of the inning, but a dropped foul ball would keep the inning alive. An illegal pitch would move the runner to second and Penn looked be heading to extras when Johnson caught a ball on the warning track in left field; however, another illegal pitch was called putting runners on the corners and the very next hitter would make that call costly as she singled in the winning run for the walk-off ending.

UCF 8, Penn 3

Looking to bounce-back from a tough opening loss, Penn was unable to get anything going in either of the first two innings as just one runner reached base. However, freshman Alexis Borden was just as good to start in the circle, allowing just one runner in the first inning.

In the bottom of the second, Penn got two quick outs, sandwiched around a one-out single, but just when Penn looked to be out of harm's way, UCF strung together six consecutive singles that would lead to four runs being scored. Finally, Penn would end the threat with a fly to center field with runners on the corners, trailing 4-0 after two innings.

Penn answered back with a run in the third, Karina Rios singled in her first collegiate at-bat and Gorney would follow that hit up by reaching on an error, putting runners on first and second. Erosa would lay down a good sacrifice bunt, moving the runners into scoring position with one out. After a Kayla Dahlerbruch walk to load the bases, Coloma would bring one run home with a single into left field. However, Penn could do no further damage with the chance. UCF would get two runners on with two outs in the bottom of the third, but Borden would work out of the jam.

Penn was unable to make anything happen in the fourth and UCF would answer with a leadoff walk that came around to score on a two-out single. The Quakers would add runs in the fifth and sixth innings to try and close the gap. In the fifth, Erosa reached on an error with one out and Dahlerbruch followed that up with a single to put two on with one out. Jessica Melendez hit a sharp grounder right back to the pitcher that the UCF hurler was unable to field, loading the bases. A second error would allow one run to score in the inning for Penn. In the sixth, Turchin would lead off the inning with a pinch-hit single and was moved over to second following a groundout. She would eventually come around to score on an error by the Kinghts' defense, cutting the score to 5-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

In that bottom half of the sixth, UCF would extend its lead with three hits; including a leadoff home run to jump start the inning. The final two runs in the inning would be unearned after Penn had more trouble recording the third out of the inning following two quick outs after the home run. That would be more than enough insurance as Penn would be retired in order during its last at-bats.

The Quakers will be back in action tomorrow morning at UCF when they take on Jacksonville at 9:30 a.m. After a break, Penn will take on Stetson tomorrow in a 2 p.m. scheduled start.