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Baseball Falls to Houston in AAC Semifinal

Knights split semifinal games against Houston, ending AAC Tournament run

Noah Goldberg

The UCF Knights Baseball team’s American Athletic Conference Tournament run ends in the semifinals after splitting two games with Houston Saturday.

While the team did force a second game thanks to an extra-inning victory in Game 1, 9-8, a late-game rally by the Cougars in Game 2 defeated the Knights, 9-6.

“At the end of the day, we just ran out,” head coach Greg Lovelady said. “It was just going to be a battle of who was standing last and they made one more pitch and got one more hit, and we couldn’t do it.”

Neither team got out to a lead greater than three runs as both teams’ offenses kept both games close. In the case of the Knights, redshirt junior first baseman Ben McCabe and sophomore shortstop Alex Freeland each hit a pair of home runs in Game 2. Those homers accounted for five of the team’s six RBIs.

Lovelady said after the game that McCabe and Freeland carried the team’s offense all year and that it was “awesome” to see McCabe make adjustments and “hit the ball hard this week.”

On the mound, the UCF pitching staff might have given up its fair share of runs, but not so much that the game got away from them. While no pitcher gave up more than five hits in their appearance, every Knights pitcher that pitched in Games 1 and 2 on Saturday gave up at least one run, barring one.

That exception was relief pitcher Ruddy Gomez, making his second tournament appearance. He pitched two innings in Game 2, allowed no hits, and struck out three batters.

“He didn’t feel great today, but he said ‘I’ll just give you what I got,’ and he was awesome for two innings,” Lovelady said. “He ran out of gas and I appreciate his honesty, he just said ‘Coach, I’m running out of gas,’ but he gave us two huge innings. We were hoping for one and we got two, so it was big.”

With the Game 2 loss, what Lovelady called a “crazy year” for the Knights comes to a close.

In a season where injuries cropped up “one after the other,” Lovelady said that the Knights got to show their depth, a quality that has been improving every year, showing that the program was moving in the right direction. However, that does not change the impact all the injuries had on the players mentally.

“There were some games where our kids were shellshocked and I felt like we didn’t show up, but we snapped out of it every single time and just kept showing up and showed so much toughness,” Lovelady said. “If you had told me that we’d have all these injuries and we’d still win 35 games and make it to the second game of the semifinals in this championship, I don’t know if I would have believed you.”

After not only playing a doubleheader but seeing the Knights’ season end on a loss, Lovelady said he was tired. While saddened to see the season, and several of his players’ collegiate careers, end on a loss, he also said he was proud of the team for playing 19 innings in a single day during what has been “a grind of a week.”

“We talk all the time about playing our best baseball at the end of the year,” Lovelady said. “I’m just proud of all of them because we did. We played our best baseball here and we had to overcome so much to do it.”

For Lovelady’s full post-game thoughts, check out the video below: