Back when Stetson and UCF were both part of the Atlantic Sun Conference, the teams would often battle through some intense and entertaining games, usually late in the regular season with postseason implications at stake.
"The UCF rivalry was huge back in the mid-2000s," said assistant coach J.J. Payette, who played for Stetson from 2003-06. "Not only were we Atlantic Sun rivals, but we were consistently two of the top programs in the state."
Although the Knights left the league in 2005, the rivalry continued to produce dramatic contests with great significance for the participants.
"It was always a big deal to play UCF," said assistant coach Amy Krazeise, who played for the Hatters from 2007-10. "Every year when we played them, it was for bragging rights for the whole central Florida area."
As Stetson and UCF prepare for Wednesday's 6 p.m. game at Patricia Wilson FIeld, the first of two non-conference meetings between the Hatters (28-5) and Knights (27-12), there is potentially even more at stake. With both teams among the top 50 in the NCAA RPI (Stetson: 39, UCF: 42), each program has a chance to bolster its postseason resume.
The Hatters enter the contest on a 13-game winning streak, which as of Monday was tied for the third-longest active winning streak in the nation. It is also the third-longest winning streak in school history.
In addition, Stetson continued to receive votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll Tuesday for the second consecutive week.
The Hatters are coming off a three-game sweep at Northern Kentucky where they outscored the Norse by a combined 30-1 margin. Stetson is scoring at a 6.6 runs-per-game clip, ranking first in the Atlantic Sun and 11th overall in the nation. Freshman Jessie TenBroeck ranks 14th in the country with a 1.12 runs-per-game average.
Something will have to give Wednesday, however, as UCF comes in with the ninth-lowest ERA in the NCAA at 1.58. Shelby Turnier leads the way with a 1.19 ERA in 21 appearances.
Wednesday will mark the 22nd all-time meeting between the teams. UCF leads the series 15-6. The teams will meet again Apr. 22 in Orlando.
Tickets start at just $5 and can be purchased online at www.gohatters.com/tix or at the Patricia Wilson Field box office. Stetson students, faculty, and staff are free with a valid ID. Subscription based live video will be available on HatterVision. Live stats, the Stetson softball twitter feed, and the Hat-Alerts text messaging system will provide in-game updates as well.