UCF busted out for three runs in the third and five more in the fourth to upend South Florida, 10-4, Tuesday in Tampa. The Knights pumped out 15 hits, including three apiece from Jonathan Griffin, Erik Hempe and Ronnie Richardson to bump their record up to 28-17 on the season.
Griffin completed his work with a pair of doubles and drove in two, while Richardson added two RBI and scored two runs. Going yard for the Knights, D.J. Hicks capped off the five-run fourth with a three-run home run. It was Hicks’ 11th of the season and the 19th in two full seasons in a Black and Gold uniform, and it also allowed him to stretch his hitting streak to 10 games.
Toeing the rubber vs. the Bulls (22-22), Bryan Brown (2-1) matched a career-high with 5.0 innings, surrendering only two runs on five hits and striking out one to get the victory in his first start of the season.
“My freshman year I (pitched twice) against those guys and I didn’t feel too good about those games. So I really wanted to start,” said Brown. “Tonight my two-seam was working well, and the offense scoring early definitely made me more comfortable out there on the mound.”
UCF threatened immediately in the top of the first against righty Zach Pietrzyk, but stranded two runners with one out. In the home half vs. Brown, a slow roller by USF’s Jonathan Koscso resulted in a leadoff single, and after a sac bunt and single, Koscso scored on a groundout.
Although two hits did not produce a run in the top of the first, the Knights had two more hits in the second and this time succeeded when Beau Taylor lined a two-out, two-strike single into left-center to plate Travis Shreve from second. However the Bulls answered with another run in their version of the second to retake the lead at 2-1.
The opportunities continued to develop for the Black and Gold in the third, where Richardson singled off the first-base bag and touched second on a throwing error from Pietrzyk who attempted a pickoff play. Looking to even things back up again, Griffin fell behind 0-2 until going the opposite way for a RBI double to right. Following a single by Kevin Vasquez to place runners at the corners, Hempe fired a single to center and Derek Luciano completed the three-run frame with a sacrifice fly.
The Knights were not done. Lefty Trey Dahl entered from the pen in the fourth and witnessed UCF load the bases with no outs, including a grounder back to the mound that Dahl picked up and simply dropped as he tried to throw to second. That would set the stage for a massive inning.
Entering Tuesday 2-for-4 on the year with the bases juiced, Richardson worked his way into a hitter’s count before lining a 2-0 pitch inside the third-base bag for a two-run double. Now ahead 6-2, Hicks pulled a line drive to right that had enough velocity on it to just clear the fence for a three-run jack. The five-run frame stretched UCF’s advantage to 9-2.
Brown preserved that lead through five innings and would take a seat in the sixth for Matt Collins, and the right-handed reliever pitched a scoreless frame, as did Hicks in the seventh.
Although the Bulls plated two runs in the eighth, Luciano’s two-out RBI single in the top of the ninth halted any chance at a USF comeback, and senior lefty Nick Cicio ventured from the pen in the ninth and breezed through the final frame to seal the win.
UCF – 28-17 Overall; South Florida – 22-22 Overall