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UCF Baseball Braves Green Wave

Knights start off road trip taking two-of-three in New Orleans

Noah Goldberg

While the UCF Knights Baseball team had quite the Saturday hiccup last weekend — again — it still pulled off a series victory over Tulane, taking two-of-three in New Orleans.

While said Saturday game somewhat skews the statistics, the pitching staff improved to a 6.38 ERA on the weekend, a solid rebound from their worst weekend of the season (10.33 ERA) against Houston.

The statistics skewing can also apply to the offense, as while its .234 batting average for the weekend is technically its second-worst weekend of the season, the hits that were produced ended up crucial to the Knights’ series victory.

Game 1: Overcoming a Bad Start

The first game of the series saw the Knights overcome a three-run deficit to win 5-3.

It didn’t take long for the Knights to be down that much, as Tulane scored all three runs in the first inning thanks to two separate RBI singles and a sacrifice fly.

The Knights would tie the score thanks to Ben McCabe, who hit a two-run home run in the top of the third and an RBI double in the top of the fifth to tie the game.

After some-back and-forth scoreless innings, the Knights would break away and secure the win in the ninth, scoring two runs thanks to an RBI single by DH Andrew Sundean, and a wild pitch that brought in McCabe. It was a capper on a night the catcher went two-for-four at the plate with three RBIs.

A huge key for the Knights’ win was the pitching. Outside of the first inning where Ruddy Gomez give up three runs on three hits, he and the rest of the staff blanked the Green Wave the rest of the way. UCF’s relievers — Najer Victor, Kyle Kramer, and Chase Centala — gave up a total of one hit combined.

The quartet tied the team’s season-high with a combined 17 strikeouts on the night.

Game 2: Setback Tsunami

The Green Wave crashed back against the Knights on Saturday with a 13-2 run-rule victory in seven innings.

Tulane SP Ricky Castro kept UCF at bay. He struck out eight and only allowed a homer from Sundean in the third and an RBI single from CF John Rhys Plumlee in the fourth.

Thanks to those two UCF scoring plays, it was all tied up, 2-2, midway through the fourth inning. By that point, Dom Stagliano had already been pitching in relief of starter Cameron Crain for about two innings.

He proceeded to give up five runs on six hits in his last 1.1 innings before being switched out with reliever Zach Chappell. He only lasted six batters, but in that time he allowed six runs on three hits and two walks.

So, in the span of two innings, the Knights gave up 11 runs and suffered its second run-rule loss of the season.

Game 3: Cam (Back) Leiter

The Knights flipped the script on the Green Wave on Sunday, taking the series with a 10-3 victory.

UCF SP Cameron Leiter had a career night with 11 strikeouts in five innings. He had a no-hitter going into the fifth, but then he gave up the only two hits of his appearance: two home runs.

At that point though, the UCF offense had built up plenty of run support with a 10-0 lead. The Knights hit four home runs on the day, two coming from SS Drew Faurot, to increase their season total to 89, tying the AAC record for most homers in a single season with 2019 Tulane.

Relief pitchers Jacob Marlowe and Kris Sosnowski took the game the rest of the way, combining to allow just one run on three hits and striking out five. That put the team’s total strikeout count to 16, just one short of Friday’s contest.

The Knights rode the series victory to a five-spot increase in the RPI Rankings, coming in at #120.

What’s Next?

It is going to be a quick turnaround for the Knights as they travel to Ohio for a five-game stretch.

First up, on Tuesday at 6 p.m., the Knights take on Ohio State, who ranks #92 in the RPI rankings and are ninth in the nation in walks.

24 hours later, UCF faces off against the program Greg Lovelady coached before coming to UCF, Wright State. The Raiders rank #82 in the RPI rankings, rank 12th in the nation in SAC flys, and harbor the Horizon League’s home-run leader Andrew Patrick and strikeout leader Sebastien Gongora.

Finally, the team will have a weekend series against the Cincinnati Bearcats, who comes in at #173 in the RPI rankings and lead the AAC in stolen bases.

Player of the Series

Ben McCabe

The senior catcher’s three RBIs in Game 1 brought the Knights even with the Green Wave by the fifth inning.

He hit his 16th home run of the season, which brings him even with 2001 Chad Ehrnsberger and 2021 Jordan Rathbone for the fifth-most single-season homers in program history.

He also bumped his career RBI total to 174, getting ahead of D.J. Hicks to reach sixth on the program’s all-time RBI list.

Play of the Series

RF Matt Cedarburg hits a 2-run HR to put UCF up 9 runs in Game 3