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UCF softball set to face Auburn in NCAA Tallahassee Regional

UCF softball earned its fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, with the Knights set to square off against Auburn in the Tallahassee Regional on Friday (2 p.m., ESPNU).

It’s the first time in program history that the Knights (30-23, 12-15 Big 12) have appeared in four straight tournaments. The team wrapped up its first season in the Big 12 and was among the last four teams to make the tournament.

“It was honestly, really nerve-wracking,” said outfielder Chloe Evans. “I had a lot of faith in this team and was just hopeful that you know what we’ve done this season, and just being our first year in the big 12, they were still going to select us.”

First baseman Shannon Doherty added, “I’m beyond thankful that we are one of the final four in and not one left out, but I think it definitely puts a chip on our shoulder, and we have got to put the foot on the gas right now. We can’t be sitting back.”

Host FSU received a No. 15 national seed and will host Chattanooga in their opener.

It’s been an up-and-down season for UCF.

The Knights opened their first Big 12 schedule by losing seven of their first nine games but rallied to win eight of the next nine conference games. However, the team finished the season by winning only two of its last seven games, capped off by a 3-2 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament.

UCF was 5-11 in games decided by one run, including 3-7 in conference play.

“Some tears started to well up in my eyes because I knew that these women had worked so hard and hadn’t reaped the benefits of the time and effort that they’ve put into this game,” coach Cindy Ball-Malone said of Sunday’s announcement. “The schedule that we’ve put them through, not only games scheduled but preparation in the weight room, in the classroom, in scouting, there’s so much more that’s gone into this year, to be prepared because there is no break. They deserve it. They’ve earned it.”

This is Auburn’s fourth meeting (27-19-1, 9-15 SEC) with UCF, and the Tigers hold a 2-1 edge in the series, including a 5-4 win over the Knights in the Tallahassee Regional in 2021.

Matt Murschel can be reached at moc.lenitnesodnalro@lehcsrumm

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