Eric Lopez previews the 2016 UCF Softball season with Head Coach Renee Luers Gillispie on the ” SportstalkFlorida Insiders Show” on Sportstalk 1080am Orlando from Saturday. Gillispie, who is entering her 15th season at UCF, talked to Lopez about the following in the interview.
- The impact of the succesful 2015 season on and off the field.
- Outlook of the 2016 season
- Who are some of the players to look for this season?
- The Expectations of Shelby Turnier
- Breaking down UCF’s schedule which includes 8 teams in Top 25 in first two weeks of season
- The Outlook for the AAC in 2016
Listen to Interview with Renee Luers Gillispie from “SportstalkFlorida Insiders Show”
The Knights are coming off a season where they won a program record 50 games in going 50-9 on their way to winning the AAC Regular season championship and Conference Tournament at home on a walk-off Homerun by Samantha McCloskey.
The Knights made it to the NCAA Tournament regional final in Tallahassee before losing to Florida State. UCF finished the season ranked 16th in the national polls which was the first time the Knights finished the season ranked in the top 25. This season UCF starts the year ranked 17th in the preseason polls returns 16 players from the team, including First team All-American pitcher Shelby Turnier.
Turnier led the NCAA with a 0.87 ERA last season edging out her teammate Mackenzie Audas who had 0.95 . Turnier had a record-breaking season for the Knights by going 25-8 with 268 strikeouts on her way to winning the 2015 American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and being named to the 2015 NFCA Division I All-America First Team.
Turnier finished last season as a top ten finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year award and was named last week to the Top 50 watch list for the award for the upcoming season.
The question will be back who will pitch behind Turnier as the Knights dont have Mackenzie Audas who graduated as the Knights all-time leader in Wins, Strikeouts and No Hitters in a career. Audas finished behind Turnier in the NCAA with 0.95 ERA while going 24-1 and made Academic All-American Team. The combo of Turnier and Audas helped UCF finish No 1 in the country in ERA (0.93) as a staff.
The Knights bring back veteran seniors Jamie Ujvari and Mackenzie Huhn who were part of the Knights 2014,2015 American Conference championships to the pitching staff while also adding Manami Calixto who comes to UCF after two successful seasons at Miami Dade College. The Curitiba, Brazil, native Calixto was named FCSAA Pitcher of the Year twice and earned NJCAA First Team All-America and Pitcher of the Year honors. Calixto was a member of the 2010 Brazil National World Cup Championship team.
On offense the Knights will be led by 2015 AAC Player of the Year, Jessica Ujvari as well as Samantha McCloskey, who hit the game-winning walk-off home run against Tulsa in the AAC Championship along with Kalyn Cenal, whose 11 home runs were the most in a single season since 2005.
Juniors Linnea Goodman and Brittany Solis were all-conference and NFCA all-region selections last season will help set the table for the power hitters. The Knights will have to replace starting third baseman Farrah Sullivan who won AAC 2014 Player of the Year, starting second base Kahley Novak who is the progam all-time leader in stolen bases and plays in the NPF with the Dallas Charge as well starting center field Maddy Schroeder who was all-conference last season.
UCF will face eight of their ranked opponents in the first 12 games including facing No. 5 Alabama (Feb 12) in the third game of the season at the UCF Softball complex, and No. 19 James Madison (Feb 13) in the fifth game of the 2016 campaign.
In total the Knights have 14 teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll on the 2016 schedule including six Top 10 teams on the preseason poll. UCF will Host 4 teams in the top ten ,No. 1 Florida (April 6) , No. 4 Auburn (Feb 17), No. 5 Alabama (Feb 12), No. 10 Florida State (March 29) at the UCF Softball Complex.
The Knights are favorites to three-peat as AAC Regular season champions by the American conference coaches.
2016 American Athletic Conference Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Listen to Interview with Renee Luers Gillispie from Feb 6th edition of SportstalkFlorida Insiders Show on Sportstalk 1080am Orlando.
You can listen and watch UCF Softball games on UCFKnights.com starting February 11.