The UCF baseball team used a strong start from junior Eric Skoglund and a wild walk-off finish to sweep a doubleheader, and win the series, from No. 9 Louisville on Thursday from the UCF baseball complex.
The Knights (25-15, 12-2 American Athletic Conference) topped the Cardinals (27-11, 7-4), 8-2, in the opening contest before returning later in the evening and delivering a walk-off thriller in the nightcap, 4-3, in 11 innings.
“We talked about as a team that the theme today was toughness,” head coach Terry Rooney said after the game. “Today was something different and something new, a weekday doubleheader starting in the middle of the day. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids today. To win a doubleheader against an outstanding Louisville team, every single person did an outstanding job.”
GAME 1 Recap
Skoglund (6-1) shined over the first eight frames as he allowed just four hits and no runs before giving up a pair in the ninth inning. The Sarasota native went 8.2 innings total, allowing eight hits and two runs to go along with a walk and seven strikeouts.
“I was able to throw strikes, pound the zone, and have command of all three of my pitches,” Skoglund said. “Establish my fastball and work my off-speed stuff off that. Sitting in the dugout during the second game was an emotional rollercoaster, but it was definitely awesome we got those two wins. It’s great for our team.”
The Knights struck first in game one without recording a single hit. After junior Dylan Moore (2-for-4, 3 R) led off the game by reaching on an error, Louisville issued three-consecutive free passes to bring in a run. Freshman Matt Diorio was the beneficiary of an RBI on the bases-loaded walk.
Both Skoglund and Cardinals’ starter Kyle Funkhouser (7-2) settled into a groove and put up zeroes over the next six innings before UCF broke the game open with seven runs in the seventh and eighth frames.
After back-to-back singles by Moore and junior Derrick Salberg put two runners on in the seventh, the Cardinals decided to intentionally walk junior James Vasquez (2-for-3, 3 RBI) to load the bases. This would prove costly as Diorio stepped in next and earned his second RBI of the afternoon without taking a swing as he was hit by a pitch with the bags full. Junior Tommy Williams (2-for-4, 2 RBI) then delivered a big two-run single up the middle to put the Knights up 4-0.
Vasquez would put an exclamation point on the victory in the eighth when he crushed his fourth home run of the season, a three-run blast, to right field. UCF’s cleanup hitter has reached base in 30-consecutive games, the longest stretch by any Knight this season.
Redshirt freshman Jarrod Petree came in relief of Skoglund in the ninth got the final out of the game to seal the victory.
GAME 2 Recap
After a 45-minute break to prep the field, the two teams got back to action for game two at approximately 7:20 p.m. After 18 innings of baseball on the day, the two squads decided that was not enough as they went two additional frames in the Black and Gold’s eighth extra-inning contest of the season.
The Knights became the first team this year to score a run off Cardinals’ elite closer Nick Burdi when they walked off in the 11th. After Moore led off the inning by reaching on an error, Burdi uncorked three wild pitches to let the Yorba Linda, Calif., native race home from third and into the arms of his celebrating teammates. It was the first run allowed this season by Burdi in 18.2 innings pitched.
Skoglund’s long outing in the opener provided the Knights’ bullpen with fresh arms as five relievers combined to throw nine innings of two-hit ball in relief of starter Tanner Olson.
Freshman Trent Thompson (1-4) earned his first-collegiate victory after spinning two perfect innings in the 10th and 11th to give the UCF offense an opportunity in its final at-bat.
“My mindset coming in is to throw up a hoop and give us a chance to walk off,” Thompson said. “This year is the first time ever in my playing career being used in a relief role and coming into big pressure roles is something honestly that I love. I just wanted to let our hitters do what they do best, and that’s come through in the clutch.”
Sophomore Zac Favre shutdown a potential threat in the third inning. With two on and none out, the Jacksonville native came into the game and retired the next three Louisville hitters in order to get his team out of a jam.
Trailing 2-0 in the first, junior Erik Barber (1-for-4, 2 RBI) launched his third home run of the season, a two-run jack, over the wall in right to tie the game. Four innings later, the Black and Gold took the lead on a sacrifice fly by Moore than scored junior Jordan Savinon (3-for-3, 1 R). Savinon not only had a nice night at the plate, but he swiped his first-career stolen bases in the contest.
Junior Parker Thomas came up with perhaps the biggest out of the ball game in the ninth. With two on and two out, Louisville brought The American’s leading RBI man, Jeff Gardner, to the plate. Thomas, who was brought in to replace junior Zach Rodgers who allowed an unearned run on one hit in over 2.2 innings pitched, got Gardner to fly out to center to end the threat.
UCF will look to sweep the series as the action concludes tomorrow with 6:30 p.m. start. If the game is unable to be played due to weather, the squads will meet on Saturday at 11 a.m. Sophomore RHP Anthony Kidston will start for Louisville against a to-be-determined starter for the Knights.
Multi-game packages and single-game tickets can be purchased by calling the UCFAA Sales & Service Office at (407) UCF-1000. Stay up-to-date on all the latest baseball news by following the team on Twitter @UCF_Baseball, Facebook and Instagram.