ORLANDO, FL – The University at Buffalo softball team split its two games on Friday to open the 2013 season at the UCF Holiday Inn Select Tournament. After falling 5-3 to Texas-Arlington in the morning, UB came back with a 2-1 victory over Florida A&M this afternoon.
The Bulls got off to a strong start in the opener as returning first-team All-MAC performer, sophomore Alexis Curtiss, belted a home run from the lead off position on the first pitch she saw in the bottom of the first giving UB an early lead for freshman Dani Cowan, who picked up the start in the circle. The Mavs answered though in the top of the second with a two-run home run and never relinquished the lead. Texas-Arlington scored five unanswered runs to go up 5-1 before the Bulls began to fight back.
In the bottom of the third inning junior Holly Luciano hit a one-out single and stole second. Following a walk to Curtiss, sophomore Karly Nevez singled as well to load the bases. The Bulls got back on the board following a sacrifice fly from junior Sammi Gallardo, but were unable to get any closer.
UB loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth as Luciano, Curtiss and Nevez all reached base again. However, Buffalo was only able to manage one run on a ground out from senior Alyssa Ward.
Cowan picked up the loss in her first career outing as she went the first four innings before being relieved by junior Tori Speckman. Nevez and Luciano each had two-hit games, combining for four of the team's five hits. Curtiss went 1-for-2 from the leadoff spot, but did walk twice.
"In the first game we were a couple defensive plays and two clutch hits away from it being an entirely different game," said head coach Jen Teague. "We try not to get too high or too low and just want to continue to clean things up and get in sync at the plate."
In the second game, freshman Nicole Aviles got the start at pitcher and did a nice job of pitching the Bulls out of early trouble against Florida A&M. The game remained tied into the bottom of the third when UB struck for two runs.
Freshman Ryleigh Fitzgerald led off the inning with her first career hit and immediately stole second. Fitzgerald would move on to third following a fielding error from the shortstop as senior Andi Saucier reached first. Saucier was then replaced on the base paths by freshman Kenzie Koch. Following a strike out, Koch stole second with Curtiss at the plate to put two runners into scoring position. Curtiss then drove the first run of the game in on a sacrifice fly and after another hit from Nevez; Gallardo drove in Koch on an infield single to put UB up 2-0.
The Bulls continued to have the two-run lead into the fifth when Florida A&M picked up its first run in the top half of the inning, but Aviles did a nice job limiting the damage and going six innings before Speckman came on in the seventh to pick up the save.
For Aviles, she struck out five batters in picking up her first career victory. Speckman recorded just her second career save and her first since the 2011 season after pitching the seventh. Offensively, the Bulls had five hits, coming from five different players, including Fitzgerald and Anissa Pinedo, who each had their first career hits. Curtiss and Nevez had hits in each of the two games this afternoon.
"I thought Nicole did a great job in her first start and really controlled things in the circle," said Teague. "Overall, we ran the bases well all day and it is great to pick up that first win. We are going to continue to build as a cohesive unit and get ready for the rest of the weekend."
The Bulls will continue play at the UCF Holiday Inn Select Tournament tomorrow with a pair of games. UB faces Stetson at 4:00 pm and South Carolina at 8:00 pm.