The UCF Knights Baseball team got swept for the first time in 2023 thanks to #12 East Carolina.
Thanks to Easter Weekend and bad weather forecasts for Friday and Saturday, the series was pushed up and what was originally going to be a three-day Thursday-Saturday series turned into a two-day Thursday-Friday with a doubleheader on Thursday.
Offensive struggles continued for the Knights (17-15, 1-5 AAC) as they hit .190 on the weekend, their worst single-weekend batting average of the season. The Pirates ended up outhitting UCF 43-20. Coming into this weekend, the Knights were 105th in the nation with a .286 team average.
Yet, despite the overall batting troubles, UCF was able to get runs on the board thanks to the long ball. The Knights are tied for 11th in the nation with 57 home runs, six in this series alone. This puts them well ahead of the 2010 team’s home run pace, which had 44 home runs by this point in the season, and they finished with 78.
Also like the 2010 team, the team’s pitching is experiencing a downturn. Should the team’s 5.31 ERA hold at the end of the season, it would be the program’s highest since the 2010 team’s 6.01.
However, this weekend, the Knights did not do themselves any favors with their defense. All three of the weekend’s games were multi-error games, which now make up 31% of the team’s season. Of 295 NCAA D1 baseball teams, UCF came into this weekend 219th in the nation in fielding percentage.
Game 1: Run-Ruled
Final.— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) April 6, 2023
Back for game 2 in 45 minutes.
The Pirates got the series off to a demoralizing start with a 17-7 run-rule victory in 7 innings.
Twelve of those runs came in the first five innings, given up by UCF starter Ruddy Gomez on 12 hits in 4.2 innings. He was followed by Chase Centala, who gave up five runs on five hits in two innings.
However, of East Carolina’s 17 runs, only eight of them were earned. Thanks to three errors and a wild pitch, UCF gave up the most unearned runs in a single game this season.
Despite the double-digit deficit and facing one of the AAC’s Top 2 pitchers in ECU starter Trey Yesavage, the Knights did pull together seven runs with four homers and an RBI groundout.
Game 2: Bat-ting down the hatches
Final.— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) April 7, 2023
It was deja vu in the early going of Game 2. Just like earlier in the day, East Carolina made it a double-digit ballgame by the 5th inning.
UCF starter Jacob Marlowe was pulled after giving up seven runs on six hits in 1.2 innings. Reliever Zach Chappell lasted longer, 3.1 innings, and struck out four, but he still have up three runs on four hits.
However, the Knights would not go down on the run rule this time. Reliever Dominic Castellano kept the Pirates’ offense at bay in the late going, giving up only 1 run on 3 hits and striking out 3 batters.
Offensively, the Knights brought the game back into single digits with a two-run home run from DH Andrew Sundean, a bases-loaded walk, an RBI single from 1B Nick Romano, and an RBI double by RF Tom Josten. Though, they ultimately were not enough to dig out of the hole.
Game 3: The Marathon
Final after 12.— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) April 7, 2023
The Knights made it a game but were unable to fend off the sweep after a roughly 5-hour and 40-minute ballgame (counting an hour and 20-minute rain delay).
While UCF starter Dom Stagliano gave up seven hits and two walks, he did not allow any runs to score in his 4.1 innings on the mound. The Pirates ultimately left 19 runners stranded on base by the game’s end.
The Knights got the early offensive edge this time thanks to an RBI groundout from RF/LF Tom Josten in the third inning and a solo homer from C Ben McCabe in the sixth. The solo shot was McCabe’s 12th home run of the season and the 42nd of his career, putting him on his own in 3rd-place on the program’s all-time homer list and one away from tying Chris Duffy (2007-2010) and Bobby Kiser (1987-1990) for the record.
However, the Pirates would tie the game up and force extra innings with a two-run seventh inning, both of them unearned.
Once extra innings arrived, conditions on the field worsened as the rain began pouring, leading to the rain delay. Once the action got going again, baserunners became more valuable.
UCF head coach Greg Lovelady was even tossed from the game after an animated argument with an umpire over the lack of a runner’s interference call on an ECU bunt attempt that went foul. Lovelady elaborated on the play with Sons of UCF’s Trace Trylko on Monday:
The difference came in both teams’ extra-inning pitchers. Both ECU’s Landon Ginn and UCF’s Nick Vieira gave up two hits a piece, but while Ginn struck out five batters and gave up no walks, Vieira gave up three walks and only struck out three.
That ultimately led to the Pirates getting a walk-off RBI single with the bases loaded.
With Easter weekend, the team will have an extended break before it concludes its five-game road trip in DeLand against Stetson at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The Hatters sit 3rd in the ASUN conference but are coming off a series loss to Bellarmine.
The team will then return home next weekend to face Memphis. The Tigers (17-16, 2-4 AAC) are coming off dropping two of three against Cincinnati. However, they do have the conference’s stolen base leader, Brayland Skinner, and the nation’s saves leader in Dalton Kendrick.
Knight of the Week
Andrew Sundean's 5th home run of the season puts the Knights on the board. pic.twitter.com/OD9daWlf2j— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) April 6, 2023
In addition to hitting a homer each in Games 1 and 2, Sundean made his second start of the season at catcher for Game 1. He made his return behind the plate two days earlier in the team’s Tuesday matchup against Miami (FL), but to see him suit up in a second consecutive game shows the progress in his recovery from an offseason injury.
Lovelady elaborated on Sundean’s return behind the plate with Sons of UCF’s Trace Trylko on Monday: