“It’s a long season. We’ve still got 53 games left in the regular season, and we need to keep getting better in a lot of areas,” said head coach Terry Rooney. “But what I’m proud of is the effort of these guys throughout the entire weekend. And to end a weekend series on that note was awesome. That shows that we have the ability to come back.”
Taylor’s home run ended a weekend where the cleanup hitter went 8-for-12 with two dingers and five RBI. One spot down in the lineup, Jonathan Griffin led all hitters with three hits and scored a pair of runs. Austin Johnston also shined with the aluminum, going 4-for-2 with a key home run in the seventh inning.
For the third-straight game, UCF (3-0) got on the board in the first inning vs. SSU (0-3), plating two runs off starter Mark Sherrod as Shane Brown and Griffin each picked up an RBI. Although Jonathan Ross cut the SSU deficit in half with a solo homer in the fourth against Nick Cicio, the Knights responded in the home half with an RBI single off the bat of Derek Luciano.
Unlike the first two outings of the series, though, the Tigers did not let the Knights take command. When the fifth inning rolled around, Cicio gave up two one-out walks, forcing UCF to go to the pen. Brennan Dobbins stepped in and issued a free pass to load the bases, while a wild pitch made it 3-2. A groundout to short from Dexter Kelley allowed the third run to score as the game reached the bottom of the fifth tied at 3-3.
Sherrod would then fall victim to location issues when UCF did return to the dish, walking the first two batters of the frame. He did earn two outs before walking Darnell Sweeney and Ronnie Richardson to hand the Black and Gold a 4-3 advantage.
Both teams continued to have scoring opportunities against the bullpens, and SSU seized control in the seventh vs. Chase Bradford, securing the first run of the stanza on a RBI single by Kelley and added two unearned runs for a 6-4 margin. Johnston attempted to bring UCF back into it in the bottom half, ripping a solo shot over the left-field wall for his first homer of the year.
However, the Knights still trailed and reliever Jason Wynn recorded the first two outs of the eighth. Now facing Taylor, Wynn went to 1-1 before the sophomore catcher took matters into his own hands, driving his second home run of the series well over the fence in right to make it 6-6.
UCF was far from satisfied, even though there were two outs. Griffin followed with a hard single up the middle, and after a pitching change, Chris Duffy was hit in the foot to give the Knights two runners. The coaches decided to go with a pinch-hitter as Taladay stepped in and the freshman pounced on the first pitch, sending it into center field to score Griffin. Duffy then pushed the lead to 8-6 by touching home plate on a wild pitch.
With two strikeouts in the ninth inning Saturday, freshman Joe Rogers returned to the mound for his first save opportunity Sunday. The southpaw opened the frame when James Lee looked at a called third strike on the inside corner. Ross did notch a double with one away, yet Rogers settled in and induced Kelley to pop up and struck out Matthew Nowacki for the save.
UCF will now embark on its first road game of the season when it heads to No. 7 Florida Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Season tickets for the 2010 campaign are currently on sale. To purchase tickets, call 407-823-1000 or visit UCFAthletics.com. And for the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com – the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF’s new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com and follow the Knights on Twitter and Facebook.