There was a slight stumble at the start, but the UCF Knights baseball team came away from its series against Memphis, which it won 3-1, with an even .500 record, 22-22.
The mark comes after the team won 8 of its last 12 games.
“I hope that we are kind of turning a corner from both sides of the ball,” head coach Greg Lovelady said in a post-series press conference.
Friday’s doubleheader ended up being a step back for the team, after coming off a split series with then-No. 9 East Carolina.
Game 1 ended in a 12-2 loss in seven innings via the 10-run rule. Memphis was coming off having lost 14 of their past 15 games. The win also gave the team its third conference win of the season.
(7)— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) April 30, 2021
Game two of our doubleheader will begin at 5:20 p.m. #ChargeOn
While Game 2 ended in a 12-10 UCF victory, the Knights still committed eight errors, the most they have had in a single game all season.
“I told the kids we judge ourselves against a standard,” Lovelady said in a press conference after Game 2. “In the second game, we won the game, but we fell short of the standard and in the first game we fell way short of the standard.”
Things began to turn around in Game 3, which was close early on. Both teams were deadlocked 5-5 midway through the fifth inning. However, in the final four innings, relief pitchers Billy McKay and Hunter Patteson combined to hold Memphis batters to four hits while the Knights offense scored 8 runs. This brought the team the 13-6 victory.
“We just kept putting pressure, getting deeper into their bullpen,” Lovelady said in a press conference after Game 3. “When you’re relentless like that offensively, the opposing team, at some point, just says, ‘Dude, I can’t handle this.’”
Game 4 would bookend the series with another game over after seven innings due to the 10-run rule. This time, however, it was the Knights that came out on top thanks to an offense that jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the third inning. In addition, starting pitcher Jack Sinclair and reliever Ryan Saltonstall teamed up to limit the Tigers’ batters to six hits in the first six innings.
The John Montes that sent us home with the walk-off dub pic.twitter.com/xMhgbpYRo5— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) May 2, 2021
The series would end on a walk-off three-run home run by 2B John Montes that invoked the 10-run rule, ending the game after seven innings, 17-5. Montes’ homer was his second of the game, while it was the fourth for the entire offense. RF Jordan Rathbone and LF Pablo Ruiz each had a home run of their own in Game 4, with Ruiz’s being a grand slam.
“You’re happy that you’re seeing progress and that we’re playing better and that we’re doing some things that we feel like we are capable of,” Lovelady said. “We talked a lot early on in the year about having four or five guys hit double-digit home runs. We’re starting to push that.”
While Lovelady said the team felt like they were “punched in the mouth” and “stunned” in the first two games, they were able to answer in the latter half of the series.
“You got to show up and continue to play like we still got stuff to play for,” Lovelady said. “We still got stuff that we need to accomplish. There’s still things in front of us that we can do and the only way that we’re going to be able to do that is if we continue to get better.”
In addition to getting the Knights to a 22-22 overall record, it also brings them to a 12-8 conference record going into next week’s four-game home series against Wichita State. The first pitch for Game 1, the first game of a doubleheader, is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday on ESPN+.