April 3, 2012
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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The No. 14 UCF baseball team will look to cap off its five-game road trip unbeaten tomorrow night in Coral Gables in the second matchup between the Knights and No. 9 Miami this season.
UCF will look to avenge its 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes on March 14 at the UCF baseball complex. Action from Alex Rodriguez Park will get underway at 6 p.m. with Marc Daniels calling the top-15 battle on 740-AM The Game.
UCF climbed in all of the polls on Monday after beating Florida Atlantic and sweeping Houston on the road last weekend. With a victory on Wednesday in Miami and more success at home this weekend against UAB, the Knights (23-6) could achieve their highest ranking of all time, which was No. 7 in Baseball America in 2001.
The Knights evolved into a NCAA Tournament team last season by notching a series of wins against Florida (twice), Miami, Florida State and Alabama. Beating the Hurricanes (21-7) would continue to show that UCF is one of the nation's best programs.
"It's very important to go down there and play well. We have yet to make our names known against highly ranked opponents. Miami is a really good team, but we know we can stick with them,'' said UCF lefty closer Joe Rogers, who is 3-0 with six saves and a 0.87 ERA this season.
"We just need to go down there and take care of business. If we just worry about our game the results will show at the end.''
The Knights are hoping to put themselves in the hunt to host a NCAA Regional Tournament later this season and their top-15 ranking certainly doesn't hurt those chances. With UCF, Florida, Florida State and Miami in contention to host regionals, the Knights need the kind of signature win that would separate themselves from the pack.
"It's a big game for a lot of reasons. It's another ranked team and it's a good RPI game. We played a great college baseball game the last time they were here and we're looking forward to going down there,'' UCF head coach Terry Rooney said. ``Every game is important when you look at the bigger (NCAA) picture. We want to keep some momentum going into this weekend when we play conference games again. But the reality is that we have two Top 20 teams going against one another.''
UCF stayed within striking distance of Miami when the two teams played three weeks ago largely because of the throwing arm of right fielder Alex Friedrich. He threw out two Miami runners trying to score in the fifth inning.
``We're never satisfied, even with a sweep at Houston. We lost to Florida, Florida State and Miami, so we need to come out (on Wednesday) and beat a highly ranked team,'' said Friedrich, who is hitting a team-best .364
UCF will send freshman Eric Skoglund to the mound for his fifth start of the season. The 6-foot-7 lefthander from Sarasota has been an instant success on the mound, compiling a 3-1 record, a 2.13 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings pitched. He admitted that pitching against Miami is somewhat like a dream come true, but his only mission is to help UCF notch what would be its biggest win of the season.
"It's huge for me and an honor for me to pitch this game. But I'm just going to treat it like any other day,'' Skoglund said. ``I'm not going to worry about the other jersey or those orange and green colors. I'm going out to do my thing and have fun.''
Probable Starters (UCF first)
LHP Eric Skoglund (3-1, 2.13 ERA) vs. RHP Javi Salas (3-0, 3.77 ERA)