Softball to Compete in UCF/Holiday Inn Classic

Senior Jacki Fletcher leads the Flames with a .438 batting average and on-base percentage.
Senior Jacki Fletcher leads the Flames with a .438 batting average and on-base percentage.

Feb. 13, 2014

UCF/Holiday Inn Classic Tournament Central

– The UIC softball team (1-4) heads to Orlando, Fla., this weekend to compete alongside Florida A&M, Delaware, Middle Tennessee, James Madison and host UCF at the UCF/Holiday Inn Classic. The Flames will begin competition on Friday by taking on Florida A&M at 10 a.m. CT and UCF at 3 p.m. at the UCF Softball Complex.

"We are excited to play in a warm place," head coach Michelle Venturella said. "There is nothing like it, just getting on the road with your team. Once you get on the bus and get on a flight, then everything just revolves around the games. I know the team is really excited to play on some dirt and get after things. UCF always is a strong opponent and they put together a good tournament, so we are fortunate to have a chance to go down there again and play in some good weather against good teams."

UIC is coming off of its first tournament of the season at the inaugural Total Control Sports Invitational, Feb. 7-9. The Flames picked up a 4-2 victory over Eastern Illinois in their first game, before falling to Illinois, 12-2 (5), Central Michigan, 5-2, Loyola, 8-2, and Western Illinois, 3-1.

Senior Jacki Fletcher led UIC offensively, producing seven hits in 16 at-bats for a .438 average and recording one RBI. Seniors Courtney Heeley and Natalie Hernandez and junior Paige Peterson additionally came up with big hits, combing for nine, as well as six RBI and six runs.

In the circle, the Flames tested sophomores Bridget Boyle and Alice Fitzpatrick and freshman Elaine Heflin. Heflin registered the most strikeouts with 15 and picked up the win against the Panthers.

"We need to be stronger with our starts, with pitching, and, in time, that will come," Venturella added. "The nice thing about our season is you only have a couple days off and then you are right back on the field, so we are really just looking to continue to grow in all areas. If we can play the game like we practice, we are going to be in good shape."

This weekend’s competition marks the fourth UCF tournament the Flames have competed in under the direction of Venturella. Last time at the UCF Softball Complex in 2012, UIC went 2-2 with wins over Penn and Stetson.

Florida A&M enters into the UCF/Holiday Inn Classic searching for its first win of the season after falling in all five of its games at the Mercer Invitational. Freshman Miesha McBride holds the Rattlers best batting average at .333, 2-for-6, with one RBI, while junior Alyssa Weaver is hitting .308 with four hits and one RBI. UIC is up 3-0 in the all-time series with Florida A&M, with their last meeting dating back to 2001.

Delaware brings a 1-4 record into competition against UIC on Friday after picking up a 5-2 win against Hampton to conclude action at the Oceanic Time Warner Cable Paradise Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. Senior Brittney Noons leads the Blue Hens with a .400 batting average following two hits, one run and one RBI, while freshman Sarah Bencivenga and junior Heather Oakley have three hits apiece in 15 at-bats. The Flames hold the advantage in the all-time series at 2-0 after taking two wins over the Blue Hens at the 2011 UCF Invitational.

After competing at the Troy Subway Invitational in Troy, Ala., Middle Tennessee is 1-4 having captured a 12-7 win over Northwestern State in its last game of the tournament. Sophomore LaRi Mitchell is hitting .600 for the Blue Raiders with three hits in five at-bats, with sophomore Cheyenne Willis going 5-for-12 (.417) and freshman Marinna Shadley posting a .353 average with six hits in 17 at-bats. UIC has won its last four contests against Middle Tennessee, with their last meeting coming during the 2000 season.

James Madison is coming off a 1-4 performance at the Red and Black Showcase in Athens, Ga., where it took a 1-0 win over Winthrop. Guiding the offense for the Dukes this season is sophomore Hannah Hayes, who boasts a .400 batting average with four hits, followed by freshman Madyson Moran (.273, 3-for-11) and sophomore Jailyn Ford (.267, 4-for-15). Saturday’s game will serve as the first meeting between UIC and James Madison.

UCF holds the best record out of all teams competing in this weekend’s competition. After hosting the UCF Knights Invitational, the Knights picked up wins against LIU Brooklyn, 3-2, Kansas, 1-0, and Fordham, 2-1. Junior Farrah Sullivan stands out from her teammates with a .429 batting average after recording three hits in seven at-bats, with fellow junior Kahley Novak producing a .286 average with two hits and two runs.  UCF holds a 3-0 edge over the Flames in the all-time series, with the Knights last taking a 7-0 win at the UCF & Holiday Inn Select Spring Fling in 2012.