On a 95-degree afternoon at Trustmark Park, the No. 16 UCF baseball team closed out its run at the Conference USA Championship with a 6-2 victory over Tulane. The Knights (43-15) finished the three-day tournament by outscoring their opponents in the last two games by a combined score of 17-3.
With Travis Shreve and Alex Friedrich getting the day off, freshmen Spencer Haynes and Erik Barber filled in admirably, notching two hits apiece.
“It was a complete team effort today,” head coach Terry Rooney said after the game. “You look at the contributions of some guys who haven’t played every single day and they did a terrific job. They made the most of their opportunities and I am very proud of them.”
The Knights will now wait and see where they will play next weekend when the 64 teams are announced for the NCAA Tournament on Monday at noon on ESPNU.
“I feel like this team is deserving of the opportunity to participate in the NCAA Tournament,” Rooney added. “The way these guys bounced back (this week) shows that they are on a mission to do something in the postseason.”
UCF opened the game by taking advantage of Tulane’s David Napoli having a hard time finding the strike zone. The Knights coaxed three walks before Jeramy Matos (2-for-5, 1 RBI) smoked a single up the middle with two outs to score Chris Taladay.
The Green Wave took its first lead this season on the Knights in the bottom of the first with a two-run homer by Nick Schneeberger to left field for the early 2-1 lead. Hanson responded by setting down the next 13 batters and allowed just three base runners the rest of the way.
UCF tied the game in the top of the fourth after the Green Wave attempted to turn a double play, but the shortstop’ s throw to first was in the dirt and trickled towards the UCF dugout which allowed Haynes to score from second base.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh tied at 2-2, Madrid made his first appearance of the weekend after Hanson was lifted. The Victoria, Texas, native came back from a 3-0 count for his 45th strikeout of the year and also forced a groundout to end the inning.
UCF broke open the stalemate with three runs in the eighth on C-USA All-Second Team relief pitcher D.J. Ponder. Prior to the game, Ponder had allowed just three runs all year in 42 innings, but Haynes came through with a clutch two-out single to the first baseman to score D.J. Hicks (4 BBs) and a hustling Matos. Ronnie Richardson tacked on another run with a single through the left side for his 33rd RBI of 2012.
JoMarcos Woods singled through the right side in the ninth to push the UCF lead to 6-2. Lefty Joe Rogers came into the game in the ninth and closed out the Green Wave in a 1-2-3 non-save situation.
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