GAINESVILLE, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – For the fourth straight time, the UCF baseball team defeated Florida. On Wednesday night, the Knights knocked off the No. 3 Gators at McKethan Stadium, 12-9, tying the longest winning streak for the Black and Gold in the series.
“It was definitely an ugly win and one of the worst games we’ve played this season,” head coach Greg Lovelady said. “We did a lot of uncharacteristic things, but I’m proud of the guys for fighting all night. We always talk about finding a way to win, when you don’t play your best. We took some blows, but we absorbed it and kept fighting back. Brandon Hernandez and Tyler Osik did a tremendous job offensively. Jeffrey Hakanson made it interesting, but he really stepped up when we needed him.”
Tyler Osik led the way offensively with another stellar performance against Florida. The senior went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI, while fellow senior Brandon Hernandez added a career night of 3-for-4 with three runs and a home run. Matthew Mika also chipped in a pair of RBI on the night.
UCF had to play from behind in the opening stages, after the Gators plated a trio of runs to start the game. Dalton Wingo pulled one back an inning later with an RBI single scorched past the second baseman. The Knights tied it up at 3-3 in the third on a Dallas Beaver RBI single to left center, before Ray Alejo scored on a fielding error at second.
Hernandez put the Knights in the lead an inning later. The Royal Palm Beach native successfully stole third, before the throw down sailed into left field, allowing him to jog home.
UCF then struck for a trio of runs in the fifth. Mika brought in Osik and Griffin Bernardo on a two-RBI single to left. Later with the bases loaded, Chandler Robertson dropped a bunt down the first base line that the pitcher failed to field properly, letting Wingo make it home safely.
The sizeable lead quickly vanished for the visitors. Jud Fabian brought in a run on a sacrifice fly to left, to cut the UCF lead down to three. Two batters later, pinch hitter Kirby McMullen gave the hosts a one-run lead with a grand slam to left. The Gators had just one hit in the five-run fifth.
Far from finished, Osik quickly tied the game in the sixth with an RBI single down the left field line, before Hernandez notched his second career homer on a solo shot to left.
Clinging to a one-run advantage heading into the ninth, UCF scored three more times, and they were all eventful. Chandler Robertson struck out swinging, but the ball got away from the catcher, giving Bernardo time to scurry in from third. During the next at-bat, Mika stole home ahead of a wild throw, and Hernandez, with a high baseball IQ play, darted all the way in from second when the catcher was slow to reach the ball.
The four-run cushion appeared to be in jeopardy in the bottom of the ninth. Florida loaded the bases with two outs, before Blake Reese was hit by a pitch to make it a three-run game. Back to the top of the order, Jeffrey Hakanson shut the door, forcing a lazy fly ball to center.
UCF (6-2) – 12, No. 3 Florida (6-4) – 9
Winning pitcher: Garrett Westberg (1-0)
Losing pitcher: Hunter McMullen (0-2)
Top hitters: Tyler Osik (3-5, 2 RBI, 2 R), Brandon Hernandez (3-4, 1 RBI, 3 R, 1 HR), Matthew Mika (1-4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB)
Top pitchers: Jack Sinclair (2 IP, 2 K, 1 BB), Kyle Kemp (1 IP, 2 K), Garrett Westberg (1.1 IP, 2 K, 1 BB, 1 H), Jeffrey Hakanson (2.2 (4 K, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB)
BRINGING IT VS. THE GATORS
• Lovelady is now 4-1 against the Gators during his tenure at UCF. Four of his five wins against top-5 opposition have come off Florida.
• In three games against the Gators, Westberg has one win and two saves.
• Osik hit .583 over three regular season games against the Gators with six RBI.
• The Knights used a season-high seven pitchers.
• UCF limited Florida to runs in just the first, fifth and ninth innings.
• The pitching staff forced the Gators to strand 10 runners on the paths on Wednesday.
• Jack Sinclair provided two solid innings of relief with a pair of strikeouts.
• Kyle Kemp kept his scoreless streak going with one inning, including a pair of punchouts.
• Garrett Westberg wen 1 1/3 innings without allowing a run, striking out two in the process.
• Hakanson had an ironman performance, going 2 2/3 innings, throwing a career-high 55 pitches and earning his first career save.
• After a scoreless opening frame, the Knights brought in runs in seven of the next eight innings.
• UCF went 4-for-5 when stealing.
• The Black and Gold tallied five extra base hits, led by a double and homer from Hernandez.
• Hakanson’s ironman performance set a new career high with 55 pitches.
• UCF is now 20-28 against the Gators.
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