The No. 14 UCF baseball team used six pitchers and received timely hitting as it ended a perfect five-game road trip with a 4-1 win at No. 9 Miami. The Knights have now topped the Hurricanes two times in the last three years when playing at Alex Rodriguez Park.
The story of the night was UCF’s stellar pitching. Freshman Eric Skoglund started and earned his team-leading fourth win. He gave way to Matt Collins, Ben Lively, Bryan Brown, Roman Madrid and closer Joe Rogers. The staff combined for 10 strikeouts and stranded 10 Hurricanes on the base paths.
Juniors Ronnie Richardson and D.J. Hicks, who was named to the Baseball America Midseason All-American team earlier in the day, continued their clutch hitting by combining for three of the Knights’ four hits and a pair of RBI.
“The theme for tonight was being clutch,” UCF head coach Terry Rooney said after the game. “When you are playing great teams, that’s what it comes down to – who makes the clutch pitch and who makes the clutch hit. Obviously we had that tonight.”
The Knights, who have won 14 of their last 16 games, return home to the friendly confides of the UCF baseball complex for a three-game weekend series with UAB beginning Friday night at 6:30 p.m.
With a scoreless game in the top of the third, Richardson took a 2-0 Javi Salas pitch just around the left-field foul pole for his third home run in five games. The Knights have now hit a dinger in seven-straight contests this season.
Hicks led off the fourth inning with what looked like a harmless fly ball, but with the wind blowing well out to left-center, it carried and dropped in front of Miami’s Rony Rodriguez. Hicks advanced on a fielding error after the ball dropped and was brought home by Taladay who grounded a chopper to the shortstop for his 23rd RBI of the season.
Miami wouldn’t go down easily as they entered the scoring column on a Stephen Perez RBI double to right-center off Brown. Madrid came in with one out and the tying run on third. He promptly struck out Dale Carey and forced All-American Peter O’Brien to ground out to him on a nasty slider.
UCF responded in the top of the eighth with two runs of its own. Richardson led off the frame and took first on his 16th hit-by-pitch of the season. Darnell Sweeney laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move him to second. Hicks, tied for first in the nation in RBI entering the game, belted home his 43rd of 2012 on a 3-2 line drive down the left-field line. Alex Friedrich was able to score Hicks as he sent a chopper that ate up Perez at short.
Madrid returned in the eighth and featured more of his filthy repertoire by striking out a Miami batter to begin and end the frame. Rogers worked a perfect ninth, including a strikeout to finish the game, for his 24th-career save and seventh of 2012.