While the UCF Knights Baseball team got off to a winning start over their spring break, a lack of offensive production gave them trouble during the weekend.
It did not help that the team lost one of its top hitters, 1B Nick Romano, to a torn ACL during Tuesday’s game against Bethune-Cookman.
Head coach Greg Lovelady called it a “freak injury,” mentioning that Romano has avoided aggravating hamstring and oblique injuries that plagued him for most of last season.
Despite being out for four games, Romano still currently leads the team in home runs (3) and, of the batters with more than 10 at-bats, in batting average (.366) and on-base percentage (.480). He is also tied for 2nd-place on the team in hits with SS Alex Freeland (15).
“Obviously it’s a big blow to our offense, big blow to our team,” Lovelady said. “Just an older veteran guy that everybody loves.”
Breaking #UCF Baseball Injury News:— Bryson Turner (@itsBrysonTurner) March 12, 2022
Head coach Greg Lovelady said that 1B Nick Romano suffered a torn ACL, which he called a “freak injury.”
No timetable was given for his recovery, but he said they will meet with the doctor on Monday. https://t.co/iXFRHMPmDW pic.twitter.com/VzH66N3bFj
Midweek: Taking Care of Business
True freshman Lex Boedicker took Romano’s place at first base in the Knights’ 6-2 road win over Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday.
While Boedicker did not get a hit that day, five of his teammates did. One of them, 3B Michael Brooks, hit his first collegiate home run in the 5th inning. The two-run shot over the left-field fence got the Knights on the board.
Despite Ben Vespi getting the starting nod for the game, it was junior college transfer Ruddy Gomez who got the win in relief. While Vespi allowed two runs on six hits and struck out two batters in 4.1 innings of work, Gomez, Kramer, and Cylis Cox combined to allow no runs on one hit, and struck out six batters in 4.2 innings in relief. Kramer was also credited for his first save of the season.
The Knights were also not short on offense in their 18-4 win at home over Florida A&M the following day.
It started in the bottom of the 1st, with Freeland hitting his 3rd home run of the season to put the Knights up, 2-0. Freeland would go on to score four runs in this game.
Boedicker and Cole Russo also provided contributions to the bonanza. Russo came off the bench and hit two singles in both of his at-bats, getting three RBIs. Meanwhile, Boedicker got his first multi-hit game since Feb. 19 and his first RBIs since Feb. 20.
“We talk a lot about mental game,” Boedicker said. “I just went into the game like, ‘I’m a dog and they can’t get me out.’”
FIU transfer William Saxton got the win for the Knights in his first start of the season, but it was relief pitcher Cameron Crain who had the most time on the mound, pitching 4.0 innings and allowing two runs on three hits, and striking out six batters.
Friday: Splitting the Doubleheader
Due to bad weather predicted for Saturday, UCF’s weekend series with North Florida was changed to feature a doubleheader at John Euliano Park on Friday, and the start of Sunday’s game in Jacksonville was pushed back.
While the Knights did sustain a 10-2 loss in Game 1 in what Lovelady called “the worst game of the season,” they would rebound in Game 2 with a 4-0 victory thanks to a complete seven-inning game shutout by starting pitcher Connor Staine.
“We just got to be better,” Lovelady said. “There’s some flashes of that here and there, but we just have to be more consistent. We got some young guys that just got to learn how to show up every day and continue to buy into the plan, buy into the approach and then go out there and execute.”
Despite lean run support in Game 2, it was enough for Staine. He has not allowed a run in 18.0 innings pitched. Even then, the two runs he did give were unearned, making Staine one of five pitchers in Division I baseball to still have a 0.00 ERA.
“It’s obviously a great feeling, you know,” Staine said. “It’s surreal, but it’s one of those things where, having a 0.00 ERA, it’ll eventually come to an end, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my head when I go into these games.”
Sunday: One Last Time in Jacksonville
FINAL | 2, 4— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) March 13, 2022
Hunter Patteson had a similarly dominant performance in Sunday’s game in Jacksonville. He pitched 7.0 innings, allowed no runs and 4 hits, and tied his career-high in strikeouts (10) for the second time this season.
However, a lack of run support led to a 4-2 Knights loss, which dropped them to 2-2 against the Ospreys for the season.
The game was scoreless for seven innings until LF Pablo Ruiz hit a two-RBI single in the 8th to put the Knights ahead, 2-0.
However, in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Ospreys took the lead with four runs on three hits and did not look back. Chase Centala was credited with the loss.
The Knights will look to rebound from the tribulations of the North Florida series with a midweek matchup against Miami at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Their next weekend series will bring UNC Greensboro to town with 6 p.m. games on Friday and Saturday and a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.
All games will stream live on ESPN+.
Player of the Week: Alex Freeland
In a week where the Knights’ offensive struggles were put on display, Freeland was a player that was able to consistently provide on that front, with at least one RBI in four of the week’s five games.
Highlight of the Week:
Tom Josten hits a triple against Florida A&M: