By Adam Brown
Ole Miss softball returns to the diamond this weekend as they play host to the No. 25 UCF Knights in a three-game series. The first pitch is set for Friday at 6 p.m. on SEC Network+.
Ole Miss (31-16, 12-9 SEC) is coming off of a conference series win over the Auburn Tigers last weekend. The Rebels took the first two games of the series it also marked the third-straight SEC series victory and the ninth consecutive league series win at home, dating back to 2018.
This season, the Rebels are 21-3 while playing in their home park of the Ole Miss Softball Complex. Coach Jamie Trachsel and her staff will honor 10 senior players Ava Tillmann, Sydney Gutierrez, Kacey Hvitved, Jessica Puk, Anna Borgen, Ally Mena, Autumn Gillespie, Abbey Latham, Kelsha Loftin and Gabby Alvarez prior to Saturday’s first pitch.
UCF (34-12-1, 13-6-1 AAC) bounced back from an 0-3-1 weekend against Wichita State, the Knights swept four straight from Memphis last weekend. UCF also has a trio of marquee wins, two over Florida and one over Arizona.
Batting .313 as a team, the Knights are led offensively by senior Jazmine Esparza with a .383 average. Esparza also leads UCF in doubles with 14 and RBIs with 37, adding in seven home runs. In the power department, sophomore Shannon Doherty and senior Georgia Blair pace the Knights with 11 big flies on the season. Overall, UCF boasts seven players with more than 70 at-bats batting over .300.
In the circle, the two main workhorses have been seniors Alea White and Gianna Mancha. White leads the team with 147.0 innings, posting a 17-4 record with a 1.76 ERA, 128 strikeouts and just 35 walks. Meanwhile, Mancha has garnered a 12-4 mark in her 117.2 frames, tallying a 1.96 ERA, 120 strikeouts and 45 walks.
This weekend series will be the first meeting for the two programs since the 2019 season as the Rebels went 3-0 in Orlando.
Game times for this series are set for Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m., Sunday at 11:30 a.m. with all the games shown on SEC Network+.