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UCF Baseball splits series with No. 9 East Carolina

Don’t look now but the Knights are heating up

UCF Baseball Photo: Derek Warden

When the UCF Knights baseball team arrived in Greenville, North Carolina, they were going against a Top 10 ranked East Carolina riding an 18-game home winning streak and an undefeated record (8-0) in conference play.

Both ended by the time the Knights and the Pirates finished their four-game series, splitting it 2-2.

The two teams split their Friday doubleheader games, with East Carolina taking Game 1, 4-2, and UCF taking Game 2, 10-5. The Pirates answered back with a win on Saturday in Game 3, 11-8, but it was the Knights that had the last laugh, taking Game 4, 6-1.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Colton Gordon, the team’s strikeout leader who was coming into this series with a 5-2 record and a 2.77 ERA so far this season, was originally slated to start Game 1 against East Carolina’s Gavin Williams, who had a 0.86 ERA coming into the game. However, it ended up being sophomore RHP Zack Hunsicker who started the game, his first of the season.

While the final score of Game 1 ended up being 4-2, Hunsicker gave up 10 hits and got four strikeouts after pitching five innings and Williams gave up only three hits and got 10 strikeouts.

Even though Gordon was missing in this series, that did not mean there wasn’t a standout pitching performance from the Knights. In Game 4, UCF junior right-handed pitcher Jack Sinclair got a season-high seven strikeouts, only allowing four hits and two walks in seven innings he was on the mound.

Meanwhile, East Carolina’s Game 4 starter, senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Smith, lasted two innings and allowed three hits, but he also allowed six walks.

Smith gave up three runs in those two innings, which proved to be enough, since the only scoring the Pirates did in Game 4 was a solo home run off the bat of freshman third baseman Zach Agnos.

While Sinclair limited the Pirates offense in Game 4, it was the Knights’ offense fending them off two days earlier in Game 2. Sophomore first baseman Ben McCabe brought in 5 RBIs that ensured the game was out of reach for the Pirates. His third inning single to left field brought home designated hitter Tom Josten and catcher Josh Crouch, took the game from being 3-0 to 5-0. Then, McCabe’s three-run home run over the right field wall in the seventh inning made a 6-3 game a 9-3 game. UCF would go on to win Game 2, 10-5.

The offense was a driving force in Game 3 as well. The Knights had nearly overcome a six-run deficit that they were put in in the first inning. After two solo home runs, one from each team, in back-to-back half innings, it was a 7-6 game in the seventh inning.

However, a throwing error from freshman left-handed pitcher Hunter Patteson that went passed first-base led to two unearned runs from East Carolina, making it a 9-6 game. That lead would increase to 11-6 by the ninth inning. Back-to-back solo home runs from Crouch and McCabe would end up bringing the game to its final score, 11-8.

The Knights emerged from Greenville with a 19-21 record and a 9-7 conference record, which puts them suddenly in third place in The American, behind just ECU (10-2) and Tulane (10-1).

The team’s next series will bring them back to Orlando, where they will be playing Memphis in a four-game series. The Tigers have won two of their last 16 games and are searching for their first road victory of the season since April Fools’ Day.

The first two games are a doubleheader that starts at 2 p.m. and all four games will be streamed on ESPN+.