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Knight Cap: Baseball off to Good Start, plus Two Track Athletes Going to NCAA Indoors

Men’s and Women’s Tennis show promising signs

Noah Goldberg

The past week of UCF Knights sports saw one team get its first loss of the season, another team get its first win since January, and two UCF athletes are heading back to Birmingham. Plus, we name the Knights of the Week and have a special interview in store for your latest Knight Cap for Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

Two Track and Field Athletes Selected for NCAA Indoor Championships

Two UCF sophomore Track and Field athletes were selected to compete in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Birmingham, Alabama Tuesday night.

Rayniah Jones and Latasha Smith are coming off of winning a combined four gold medals at the AAC Indoor Track and Field Championships, en route to the Knights winning the conference title. They will be the first UCF athletes not named Anne-Marie Blaney to travel to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships since 2013.

Jones qualified for the 60-meter dash thanks to her 7.23-second time at the Charlie Thomas Invitational. Her qualification for the 60-meter hurdles comes from her 7.90-second time at the AAC Indoor Track and Field Championships, a program record that is also the 4th-fastest time in the country. She is the first athlete in program history to qualify for both events in the same championship.

Jones is no stranger to national-scale competition like this since she made the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 100-meter hurdles as a freshman last year and ended up with the silver medal.

Meanwhile, Smith is the first UCF athlete in program history to qualify for the NCAA Championships in the 400-meter dash (Indoor or Outdoor). She did so thanks to her 52.32-second time that won her the gold medal at the AAC Championship.

The action begins on March 11th. First, Jones runs in the 60-meter dash preliminary at 7:15 p.m., followed by Smith in the 400-meter dash preliminary at 7:25 p.m., and then Jones returns for the 60-meter hurdle preliminary at 7:55 p.m. The action will be streamed live on ESPN3.

Baseball goes 2-1 in Statesboro; beats Stetson

While the UCF Baseball team did sustain its first loss of the season, it was the only loss of this week’s four-game stretch: a three-game series with Georgia Southern last weekend and a one-off against Stetson on Tuesday.

The action began on Friday in Statesboro where starter David Litchfield pitched 7.0 innings, allowed 4 hits, 1 run, and struck out 4 and CF Gephry Pena got three hits and two RBIs with 5 at-bats to help the Knights to a 5-1 win to start the series off.

On Saturday, starter Connor Staine allowed no hits and four walks in 4.0 innings pitched and the Knights got out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the 6th inning.

However, Georgia Southern managed to complete the comeback after UCF relievers Cylis Cox, Chase Centala, and Ben Vespi combined to allow seven hits and three runs in 4.2 innings pitched.

Georgia Southern would take the 3-2 win, giving the Knights their first loss of the season, with a walk-off RBI single.

The Knights ultimately took the series on Sunday though. Starter Hunter Patteson kept the Eagle bats at bay, only allowing two hits and striking out 10 batters, matching a career high. Meanwhile, Pena and Romano would both get solo home runs and LF/2B Tom Josten would get four RBIs to help propel the Knights to a 10-1 victory.

On Tuesday, the Knights returned home to take on Stetson. The team used six pitchers during the game, all of them combining to allow just four hits. However, they also allowed a combined eight walks and three runs, causing the game to remain tight throughout.

The pitchers were assisted offensively by DH Ben McCabe’s two RBIs, SS Alex Freeland’s solo home run, and pinch hitter Trent Taylor’s RBI bunt-single that gave the team a two-run cushion in the late-going. Taylor’s RBI would ultimately be the final score of the game, as the Knights beat the Hatters, 5-3.

Now, the team holds a 7-1 record as it prepares to host No. 2-ranked Ole Miss in a three-game series this weekend. Game 1 starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, Game 2 begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and Game 3 commences at noon on Sunday. All games will stream on ESPN+.

Men’s Tennis gets first win since Jan. 30

The UCF Men’s Tennis team split its two road matches this week, getting it its first win since Jan. 30.

While No. 2-ranked Ohio State did sweep UCF, 4-0, on Friday, the Knights did get one victory in doubles play.

Junior Lleyton Cronje and freshman Cooper White paired up together for the first time this season against the Buckeyes and proceeded to beat the No. 1-ranked doubles pair in the country, Robert Cash and Matej Vocel, 6-3.

Two days later, Cronje and White won in doubles play once more against No. 37-ranked Arkansas, just with different partners. For White, he paired up with junior Trey Hilderbrand to defeat No. 47-ranked pair, Adrien Burdet and Melvin Manuel, 7-6 (7-3).

UCF would later go on to clinch the match, 4-1, after Cronje’s doubles partner, junior Bogdan Pavel, defeated Burdet, (6-4, 7-6 (7-4)).

The Knights now carry a 2-8 record overall back home to the USTA National Campus, where they will have an eight-match homestand for the entire month of March. It begins this weekend with a 1 p.m. Friday match with Florida Gulf Coast and a 5 p.m. match on Saturday against No. 26-ranked Michigan.

Women’s Tennis gets first win vs. ranked team

The UCF Women’s Tennis team split its two ranked opponents as it began a 10-game homestand at the USTA National Campus this weekend.

The Knights went into their match with No. 3-ranked Oklahoma handicapped. Since the team was “down a player,” according to UCF Athletics, it had to forfeit one doubles and one singles match, which gave the Sooners a point from the jump.

The Knights ultimately lost, 5-2, but they avoided the sweep thanks to No. 114-ranked junior Marie Mattel’s upset of No. 34-ranked Carmen Corley (1-6, 6-4, 6-4) and freshman Noel Saidenova’s upset of No. 38-ranked Ivana Corley (6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (10-8)).

Two days later, Mattel and her doubles partner, senior Evgeniya Levashova, mirrored their male counterparts by also beating the No. 1-ranked doubles pair in the country, Mel Krywoj and Alicia Herrero of No. 17-ranked Baylor.

The Knights went on to sweep the Bears, 4-0, giving them their first win of the season over a ranked team.

The Knights’ homestand continues with three matches this week, all beginning at noon. First, Eastern Michigan on Thursday, No.18-ranked Michigan on Saturday, and finally No. 5-ranked Texas on Sunday.

Travale, Men’s Golf finish Top 5 in Coral Creek Invitational

The UCF Men’s Golf team got its first Top 5 finish of the spring this week by finishing 5th in the Coral Creek Club Invitational.

Senior Johnny Travale led the team to a total of 863 (+11) for the tournament, which was 13 strokes back from runner-up North Florida (-2) and 25 strokes back from the winner (and host) Florida Gulf Coast (-14).

Travale’s 208 (-5) individual performance was enough to finish in a tie for 3rd place overall, making this his first Top 5 finish of the spring and his 3rd overall for the season.

Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Jonah Leach had the second-best score on the team in his collegiate debut. He finished the tournament at 214 (+1), putting him in a tie for 21st.

The team has this weekend off before traveling out to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the General Hackler Invitational, hosted by Coastal Carolina, on March 13-14.

Knight of the Week

Hunter Patteson, Baseball

Lovelady has said before that all three of UCF’s starting pitchers could start on Fridays, which is essentially a de facto ace, and that is doubly true with Patteson.

While he did have the run support to back him up in UCF’s 10-1 win on Sunday, previous games against North Florida and Georgia Southern have shown that it is not always a given. This is what makes Patteson’s 7.0 inning performance on Sunday that much more impressive because he did not require the full extent of that run support.

Patteson tied his career high 10-strikeouts and allowed only 2 hits and no walks. When combining hits and walks, Patteson has allowed the least number of runners on base so far this season.

With No. 2 Ole Miss next on the docket, Patteson is poised to be a key to a potential UCF victory in this series.