With the temperatures rising at Cougar Field Sunday, the No. 16 UCF baseball team continued its scorching play and earned the series sweep of Houston with a 3-1 extra-inning triumph. The Knights’ (23-6, 5-1) clutch batting prevailed as D.J. Hicks and Chris Taladay drove home the game-winning runs in the 10th.
In the series, the Knights outscored Houston, 20-5, and managed a home run in each contest to improve to 6-1 on the road this season.
“We talked before the game about toughness,” head coach Terry Rooney said. “A lot of the time it is about finding a will and a way. We made the comment, `whatever it takes’ and the guys did that today against a very good Houston team with an outstanding starting pitcher.”
UCF’s pitching staff shined once again with starter Ray Hanson putting up 5 2/3 innings in his weekend debut. He allowed just one run on six hits. Roman Madrid and Joe Rogers combined to lock down the rest of the game with Rogers moving to 3-0 on the year.
The top of the order (1-5) notched all 10 of the Knights’ hits, including Hicks, Richardson and Taladay who drove in one run apiece.
The Knights will regroup on Monday and Tuesday before heading to Miami for their in-state battle with the Hurricanes Wednesday night at 6 p.m.
Leading off the game, Richardson wasted no time in getting the Knights out ahead as he smacked a 3-2 pitch over the left-field. It was the first dinger to start a contest for UCF since Shane Brown went yard against Marshall on April 23, 2010.
After setting down the first batter in the second, Hanson ran into some trouble with back-to-back singles and an error that loaded the bases. He worked his way out of the frame unscathed by getting Houston’s Jake Runte to popup to Sweeney at short.
Houston tied up the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the fourth on a suicide squeeze, but that would be the only run of the day for the Cougars (10-16, 1-5).
Hanson worked himself out of a jam once again in the fifth by stranding the bases loaded for the second time. The following inning, he maneuvered around a leadoff walk and induced a 1-6-3 double play. In all, UCF pitchers were able to strand 37 Cougars on the base paths this weekend.
Tied 1-1 entering extra innings for the first time this season, Richardson sent a single into left-center and took third on a Sweeney (2-for-5) base knock through the right side. Houston made a pitching change for the lefty-lefty matchup with Hicks (2-for-4), but it didn’t matter as he ripped a 3-1 fastball past the second baseman to bring home Richardson. Taladay (3-for-5) added an insurance run with a liner at the knees of Houston’s Jordan Mannisto that went into center field and plated Sweeney.
Rogers, who relieved Madrid in the eighth after 1 1/3 hitless innings, tossed three lights out frames for his longest outing of the season. The Winter Haven native struck out three Houston batters in his 59th-career relief appearance.
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