In a series where there was no shortage of offense, the UCF Knights Baseball team returns to Orlando with a sweep against Wichita State.
The Knights ultimately outscored the Shockers, 32-19.
The feat comes one week after the Knights (24-16, 8-4 AAC) were the victims of a sweep at the hands of East Carolina. It also brings them into a three-way tie for the lead in the conference standings with East Carolina and Tulane.
Game 1: Three Home Runs
The Knights and Shockers kept pace with each other in the early goings of Friday night’s Game 1.
The Shockers responded to a 2-run homer by 3B Michael Brooks in the top of the 2nd inning, his first home run in slightly over a month, with a 2-run RBI single in the bottom half of the inning.
A similar thing would happen in the 3rd inning. While the Shockers gave up a run in the top half of the inning thanks to a throwing error from 3B Sawyre Thornhill, two RBI singles in the bottom half of the inning gave them a slight edge, 4-3.
However, after this score, the combined efforts of relief pitchers Ruddy Gomez, Ben Vespi, and Kyle Kramer held the Shockers hitless for five innings. This bought the Knights offense time to regain the lead and score some insurance runs.
DH Tom Josten tied the game in the 6th inning with a sacrifice bunt to bring home SS Noah Orlando. However, in the very next at-bat, it would be RF Trent Taylor that got UCF the lead thanks to a two-run home run to left field. It was Taylor’s 1st home run since May 14th, 2021.
One inning later, C Andrew Sundean hit the Knights’ 3rd homer of the day with a solo shot to left field. Additionally, 2B Ryan Taylor picked up another insurance run in the top of the 9th with an RBI single.
While Wichita State was able to shrink the lead by one in the bottom of the 9th, it was not enough. After only giving up one UCF run last season, Shocker starting pitcher Jace Kaminska gave up five runs on Friday as he was credited with the loss.
Game 2: How about some more home runs?
With the help of some favorable wind conditions, per head coach Greg Lovelady, Saturday afternoon’s Game 2 produced the highest-scoring game in the conference so far this season, with the Knight coming out on top, 16-12.
This is despite the pitcher with the nation’s lowest ERA taking the mound to start for the Shockers. In 44 innings coming into the weekend, Cameron Bye had only given up three earned runs. In 3.1 innings against the UCF offense, he gave up five of them.
Things seemed to start well enough for the Shockers as they got out to a 7-2 lead after three innings. An RBI single by Sundean and a solo home run by 1B Ben McCabe were all the Knights had to show for on the scoreboard to that point.
However, the lead shrank to just one run for the Shockers, 7-6, in the 4th inning thanks to a passed ball, a 2-RBI single by CF Gephry Pena, and a solo homer to left field by Orlando.
The Knights would go on to take the lead in the 6th inning when Taylor hit his second home run of the series to left field and McCabe hit an RBI double. However, the Shockers would tie it up in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a solo homer of its own from LF Seth Stroh.
It remained a close game even heading into the 8th inning, with UCF’s two-RBI single and a run scored on a Shocker error in the top half of the 7th inning answered by the Shocker scoring an RBI single and a run off of a wild pitch in the bottom half, making it 11-10.
The Knights would blow the game open thanks to Brooks and Sundean getting their 2nd home runs of the series, with Brooks hitting his 2-run shot in the 8th inning and Sundean hitting his three-run shot in the 9th inning. That brought the Knights’ total home runs for the game up to five.
“We kept talking about ‘Extend the lead, extend the lead,’” head coach Greg Lovelady said to Marc Daniels after the game. “No lead is safe today in this weather.”
The Shockers proved as much by shrinking the lead by two in the bottom half of the 9th thanks to a wild pitch and an RBI double, but the Knights were able to extend the lead enough to get the series-clinching win.
Game 3: Alright, let’s finish this
The UCF pitching staff kept the Shockers off the scoreboard for the majority of Sunday’s Game 3.
The combined efforts of Crain, Gomez, Jacob Marlowe, and David Litchfield gave allowed nine Shocker hits, only two runs got across, one of which being the 1st run of the game in the game’s opening: an RBI single.
The Knights would jump out ahead in the 2nd inning, 4-1, thanks to an RBI groundout from Brooks, RBI singles by Pena and (Ryan) Taylor, and an RBI double by C Riley Wash.
The Knights would extend the lead in the 5th inning with a two-run RBI single by Orlando and a two-run RBI triple by Brooks.
The Shockers would get one back in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a solo home run by 2B Brock Rodden to make the score 8-2. However, the game was kept scoreless the rest of the way, thanks to relievers Jacob Marlowe and David Litchfield on UCF’s part, sealing the sweep for the Knights.
Road Trip Sweeps call for…— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) April 24, 2022
DAIRY QUEEN pic.twitter.com/MSISTjB2wm
After entering into a three-way tie for the conference lead with East Carolina and Tulane, the Knights will now have to return to Orlando and face the Green Wave next weekend.
As a team, Tulane is 10-6 on the road thus far and sits just below UCF in batting average (.282-.279). However, UCF does have an entire run on Tulane in ERA (3.74-4.75). ]
Individually, Tulane has the 2nd-lowest ERA in the conference in Grant Siegel (2.15) and the two highest batting averages in the conference in OFs Ethan Groff (.413) and Jackson Linn (.385).
Players of the Series:
RF Trent Taylor and 3B Michael Brooks
Two down-on-their-luck players got their time to shine this weekend in Wichita, with so similar accomplishments that both deserve this week’s honor.
Taylor was mainly used off the bench in late March and early April, while Brooks has, per Lovelady, “scuffled” all year.
However, this weekend, the two of them each got five hits, two of them each being home runs.
“We just talk about you never know what pitch, what a-bat, what day is going to be the day that things start to click,” Lovelady said.
In addition, Brooks was named the AAC’s Player of the Week.
Hit .556 with 5 runs, 2 home runs and 6 RBI as @UCF_Baseball swept Wichita State and moved into a tie for first place in the @American_Conf standings - Michael Brooks is our Player of the Week! pic.twitter.com/gwS1CuE2H4— American Baseball (@American_BSB) April 25, 2022