It has been a busy week for the UCF Knights Baseball team, though it did culminate in taking two of three against the Memphis Tigers for its first weekend series win in just under a month.
It all began with an influx of outside scrutiny due to a clip of head coach Greg Lovelady in an interview with Sons of UCF’s Trace Trylko going viral on Twitter.
The program clarified Lovelady’s comments in a statement sent to the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday, which said the following:
- In a meeting with Lovelady, the former player said he was “frustrated with his role.”
- Lovelady met with a player shown in a leaked video allegedly removing a sticker from a bat and suspended him for two games. He has “since spoken to the team multiple times about the incident.”
- The American Athletic Conference supported the actions Lovelady took in the situation.
- There was “no evidence of the use of illegal bats.”
With eyes on their bats, the Knights (20-16, 3-6 AAC) stepped up to have their best weekend batting performance since the Dartmouth series, posting a .313 average.
The Knights’ pitchers also turned in one of their best complete performances of the season. Combined, their 41 strikeouts is the most in a single weekend this season and their 3.33 weekend ERA was the lowest since the Dartmouth series.
Game 1: The Doubleheader... for JRP
While the Knights defeated Memphis 12-3 on Friday to kick off the series, there was another overarching story at play.
The eyes of the country were on CF John Rhys Plumlee as he played in both Game 1 and the UCF Football Spring Game at quarterback, a feat shades of Deion Sanders on October 11, 1992.
“It’s really special, just a once-in-a-generation talent to be able to do what he’s doing at such a high level,” Lovelady said.
Before boarding a golf cart for FBC Mortgage Stadium, Plumlee went 2-3 at the plate, including his first career triple that got UCF its first two runs of the night.
Plumlee was not the only one to find success in the batter’s box, as five Knights got multiple hits. UCF’s 15 total hits, including home runs from DH Andrew Sundean, LF Lex Boedicker, and SS Drew Faurot, tied for the second-most hits in a game this season.
“We hit the ball hard every single at-bat for the most part,” Lovelady said. “It was just good just to see the offense stick with our plan, stay stubborn to that plan. You do that and it’s really fun to watch us play.”
On the mound, SP Ruddy Gomez took the win, but despite striking out nine batters, the Miami native said he was “a little frustrated” after giving up three runs on seven hits and four walks.
“There was a lot of pitches where I could have executed better,” Gomez said.
Game 2: Pitching Duel
Game one final.— UCF Baseball (@UCF_Baseball) April 15, 2023
First pitch of game two is set for 6 p.m.
In contrast to the rest of the weekend, both team’s bats proved not so productive on Saturday as the Knights fell 3-1, tying the series up.
It was not for a lack of baserunners, as the Knights drew six walks to go with their six hits. It’s just that only one of them scored (on a Plumlee RBI single), leaving nine runners stranded on base.
It’s this lack of run support that forced SP Jacob Marlowe to take his 5th loss of the season, despite tying a career high with six strikeouts. In 6.1 innings, he gave up three runs on five hits and one walk.
In relief, Ben Vespi struck out six of the 10 batters he faced in 2.2 innings.
Game 3: Good Morning!
While Memphis was the early bird when Sunday’s game started at 10 a.m., it was the Knights that caught the worm with an 8-6 victory on Sunday.
Despite a career-high nine strikeouts, SP Dom Stagliano gave up five runs on four hits and three walks in 4.1 innings. In a departure from his normal closer role, Kyle Kramer took over on the mound for the next 2.2 innings, giving up one run on two hits and a walk and striking out four batters.
That left junior FGCU transfer Najer Victor, who was credited with the win, to close things out for the Knights. He entered the contest with a runner on third base and no outs in the 8th innings and proceeded to strike out the next three batters.
“It’s probably the biggest moment of my college career,” Victor said.
Victor totaled four strikeouts on the day and allowed only a walk.
Offensively, whenever UCF went down, it had an equal or greater response. In the fifth, with Memphis up 5-0, the Knights answered with five runs on six hits to tie things up.
In the eighth, the Tigers got a one-run edge after a UCF throwing error. The Knights responded by not only capitalizing on a Tiger throwing error, but Boedicker sent one over the center-field fence to give them the lead and ultimately the win.
“It feels pretty good,” Boedicker said. “Been kind of in a slump lately, I’m trying to work on that, but two home runs over the weekend, I can deal with it.”
It’s a couple of rematches for the Knights.
Stetson comes to town one week after UCF took a 7-1 win in DeLand.
Next weekend, UCF travels to Tampa for Part 2 of the War on I-4 against South Florida. Since the last series, the Bulls won two of three against Tulane and lost two of three to Houston. Game 1’s first pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
Player of the Series
LF Lex Boedicker
Despite his recent hitting struggle, Boedicker’s two home runs came at key moments in the Knights’ two wins. His Game 1 homer put UCF up 8-1, blowing the game open, while his Game 3 dinger ended up the deciding factor.