#24 UCF Softball 2016 Preview

UCF Knights
Overall Rank: #24
Conference Rank: #1 American
 UCF Logo
UCF comes into the 2016 season as defending back-to-back American Athletic Conference champions. The 2015 season was an amazing one for the Knights, who went a remarkable 50-9, including an impressive 16-2 in AAC play. Unfortunately the Knights' season was cut short after running into Florida State in the Tallahassee (Fla.) Regional. Eight Knights were named all-conference selections, which was the most of any school in the AAC. Junior Jessica Ujvari was named the American Player of the Year, while junior Shelby Turnier was named the American Pitcher of the Year.
2015: 50-9, 16-2
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Renee Luers-Gillispie
Field Players:
The Knights bring back six of their top nine hitters, including the reigning American Player of the Year Jessica Ujavri, to a team that outscored its opponents 265-75 in 2015. Jessica Ujavri hit .314 with eight doubles, seven home runs and a team-leading 38 RBI. Linnea Goodman returns for her junior campaign after leading the team in hitting with a .365 clip and 73 hits, which was also a team high. Samantha McCloskey hit eight home runs in 2015, including the walk-off homer to help UCF win the AAC Tournament. Kalyn Cenal was the team leader in home runs with 11 and drove in 36, good for second on the squad. Tiffany Lower comes into her freshman season after being named to the MaxPreps All-America First Team twice. The Knights also have another impressive infielder coming in, Kendall Reid, who finished with 43 home runs in her high school career.
Last year's pitching staff included Turnier and Mackenzie Audas, both of whom finished with ERAs under one, which was good for number one and two in the country. Audas graduated, but Turnier, the first NFCA All-American in UCF history, returns for her senior season. Last season, Turnier finished 25-8 with a 0.87 ERA and 268 strikeouts. Among some of the other feats accomplished were 10 shutouts and recording double digit strikeouts in nine games. Manami Calixto comes to the Knights after earning All-America honors at Miami Dade College. Two others who saw action, Jamie Ujvari and Mackenzie Huhn, also return.
Who to Watch:
In her entire time as a Knight, Turnier has always had a counterpart in Audas. This year will be the first where the senior will be asked to carry the load as the true ace of the squad. Her stats keep getting better every year and she's improved as her career has gone along, but will she be able to shoulder all the pitching or will any of the other three pitchers step up and help her out?
Final Projection:
The Knights are a very experienced team, as Turnier, McCloskey, Ujvari and Cenal are all seniors and Goodman is a junior. All of them have experienced great success at the Division I level and that success will be what helps them overcome the graduation of Audas, Farrah Sullivan, Maddy Schroeder and Kahley Novak. Add that with the talent that is coming in and this year could be another very successful one in Orlando. The Knights face 18 teams that made the 2015 NCAA Tournament, including five that advanced to the Women’s College World Series. UCF will face 10 of those teams in the first 12 games of the season. The first weekend alone includes games against Alabama, James Madison and Florida. The weekend after that is a packed Mary Nutter Classic slate that has UCF facing UCLA, Washington, Texas A&M, Arizona and LSU. Games later in the season include home tilts with Florida and Florida State, as well as a three-game trip to Baylor.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Linnea Goodman, OF, 205
Hits: Linnea Goodman, OF, 73
Home Runs: Kalyn Cenal, 1B/C, 11
RBIs: Jessica Ujvari, DP/C, 38
Runs: Linnea Goodman, OF, 34
Stolen Bases: Linnea Goodman, OF, 7
Wins: Shelby Turnier, P, 25
Innings Pitched: Shelby Turnier, P, 208.1
Strikeouts: Shelby Turnier, P, 268
Complete Games: Shelby Turnier, P, 21
Madness 2015 Draft Rankings:
#2 Shelby Turnier