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UCF Baseball Sweeps Clemson on Road

Two weekends, two sweeps

UCF Baseball #6 Tom Josten
Noah Goldberg

The UCF Knights Baseball team rebound from a midweek loss to Florida Atlantic by sweeping the Clemson Tigers last weekend in its first road series of the 2023 season.

Despite pitching and rain delays taking up Game 1, the rest of the series was an offensive showcase for both teams. Thanks to taking advantage of some Clemson (4-3) defensive miscues, the Knights (6-1) got the edge to take both games and the series.

It was the first time the two teams duked it out since 2008 when the Tigers came to Orlando and swept the Knights. However, with this latest sweep, UCF is now 6-5 against Clemson overall and the first non-ACC team to sweep the Tigers in a weekend series on their home turf since South Carolina did it in 1985.

Friday: Rain, Rain, Go Away

Game 1 can be divided into three distinct parts, each with its own UCF pitcher thanks to some inclement weather in Clemson, South Carolina. Despite it needing to take over 17 hours to complete, the Knights did pull out the 4-2 victory in the end.

Ruddy Gomez got the game started on the mound for the Knights, going 4 innings and allowing 1 run on five hits, two walks, and striking out two batters. He also escaped a couple of situations with runners in scoring position, including a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the 2nd inning.

During this early portion of the game, despite a 10-strikeout performance from Clemson starter Ryan Ammons, UCF got out to an early lead thanks to an RBI double by DH Lex Boedicker and RF Corey Robinson drawing a bases-loaded walk.

After a 76-minute weather delay, Chase Centala took over pitching duties. He went another 4 innings, allowed only 1 run on 2 hits and a walk, and struck out five of the 15 batters he faced. He went on to be credited with his 1st win of the season.

It was during this portion of the game that Clemson tied things up with an RBI single in the 5th inning.

Another rain delay in the top of the 9th inning forced the end of the game to be postponed to the following afternoon. With two runners on base, 1B Nick Romano brought one home with an RBI single followed by 3B Andrew Brait getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Kyle Kramer proceeded to strike out two of the three batters he faced in the bottom of the 9th to earn his 1st save of the season.

Saturday: Outrunning the Tigers

Similarly to Game 1, the Knights got out to an early lead in the early goings of Game 2. While that lead would eventually dry up, a late-inning push on both sides of the ball propelled the team to a 10-7 victory.

Solo homers from SS Drew Faurot and CF John Rhys Plumlee and a 3-run shot from 2B Tom Josten helped put the Knights up 6-1 going into the bottom of the 5th.

However, true freshman starting pitcher Cameron Leiter once again walked several batters in his 2nd start of the season, racking up 5 of them on Saturday in the 25 batters he faced. Combine that with seven hits allowed and by the time he exited the game, he gave up five runs in 4.2 innings of action.

The next 1.1 innings were pitched by FGCU transfer Najer Victor and North Florida transfer Zach Chappell, who combined to give up two hits and one run that tied the game up in the 6th inning.

The win ended up going to the final Knights pitcher of the game: Jacob Marlowe. Rebounding from his loss against FAU earlier in the week, he pitched the final three innings and allowed only 2 hits and 1 run. He is now 1-1 on the season.

On the offensive side, the Knights took advantage of an error, two walks, and two hit-by-pitches to plate 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning that created the cushion they needed to seal the win.

Sunday: Break out the Brooms

While Clemson kept the Knights within striking distance for most of Game 3, another late-inning push got UCF a 13-6 victory.

Relief pitcher Ben Vespi was credited with the win after his first appearance of the season in which he pitched for two innings, gave up 1 hit and 1 run, and struck out 1 of the 8 batters he faced.

By the time the top of the 7th came along, the Knights and Tigers experienced deja vu as they were tied 6-6 going into the 7th inning for the 2nd straight day. And just like Game 2, the Knights took advantage of Clemson miscues, such as drawing walks and taking advantage of an error and wild pitch, to add 5 runs to make it an 11-6 game.

Once the Knights opened up this late-game lead, reliever Nick Vieira was tasked with preserving it. His 2.1 innings of work in which he allowed no runs, 1 hit, and 2 walks and struck out one batter earned him his 1st save of the season in his 2nd appearance.

Though, the offense was not done just yet, as the Knights had two more runs in them.

McCabe hit his 5th home run of the season and the 35th of his UCF career, tying him with Matt Bowser for the 6th-most in program history.

Finally, Faurot put the exclamation point on the series with a home run of his own, his 2nd of the series and 3rd of the season. It also served as the Knights’ 18th home run as a team in 2023, which currently leads The American.

The Knights celebrated Faurot’s home run (and others) by sharing a shout of “BOOM!” borrowing Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn’s trademark catchphrase. However, after the game, Clemson head coach Erik Bakich criticized the practice, calling it “very mouthy.”

“Mouthy” or not, Malzahn approved. Time will tell if this celebration will stick as a new UCF Baseball tradition, at least for this current era.

Player of the Series

Andrew Brait - 3B

While plenty of Knights shined offensively this weekend, such as Josten with multiple home runs or McCabe with his 35th of his career, no Knights batter was involved in every single game quite like Andrew Brait was.

The most glaring accomplishment of the weekend was his batting in Game 2, where accounted for 4 of the Knights’ 10 hits on the game, including an RBI single that put the Knights up 8-6 in their 8th-inning rally.

However, he was also involved in key moments of the other two games.

In Game 1, he took one for the team by getting plunked by a pitch to score the Knights’ 4th run of the game and fielded the only ground ball of the bottom of the 9th to keep Clemson from getting a runner on.

Then, in Game 3, went 2-5 and sealed the deal on the sweep with a 2-RBI single to cap off the Knights’ 7th-inning rally to put them up by 5 runs.

Whenever the Knights needed to seal the deal this weekend, Brait was there and he delivered.

Play of the Series

Nick Romano hits an RBI to put UCF ahead in the Top of the 9th in Game 1

What’s Next?

The Knights’ road trip will extend for one more game as they make a midweek trip to Daytona Beach to face Bethune-Cookman.

Should Romano suit up to play in this game, it will be his first time playing at Jacki Robinson Ballpark since he tore his ACL there last year.

The Wildcats are entering the matchup after weekend series victories over Lehigh and Purdue Fort Wayne. They have 3 of the Top 10 pitchers in the SWAC and have two Preseason All-SWAC First Team selections in catcher Irvin Escobar and SP Louis Lipthratt.

Following that midweek matchup, the Knights return home to face Georgia Southern. UCF will look for another series victory over the Eagles after defeating the eventual No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season, 2-1. s

Thus far, Georgia Southern has a pair of 2-1 series victories over West Virginia and East Tennessee State and the Sun Belt’s Preseason Player of the Year in DH Noah Ledford. Ledford is joined by 3B Jarrett Brown and 2B Jesse Sherrill on the Preseason All-Sun Belt Team.