May 18, 2012
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By Eric DeSalvo
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Game one of the winner-take-all Conference USA series took nearly 24 hours to complete before the No. 13 UCF baseball team topped No. 4 Rice, 8-6. The Knights (41-12, 16-6) are one game away from their first C-USA title.
The official game time was 3:04, but the contest featured a pair of delays, including the game being halted overnight and resuming at 3 p.m. Friday.
The win over a top-five team was the first for UCF since it finished a sweep of in-state rival Florida on April 20, 2011.
Junior Roman Madrid notched his fourth win of the year, and lefty closer Joe Rogers, fresh off of breaking UCF's career-saves record, pitched two innings to claim his 12th stop of the year to tie the single-season record (Jason Arnold, 1998).
A trio of Knights recorded three-hit performances. That group included senior Alex Friedrich, who had a bases-clearing double in the fourth, and junior Darnell Sweeney, who started the scoring in the third inning with a two-run double.
After cruising through the first two frames on Thursday night, Rice starter Matthew Reckling was knocked out of the game in the third after he gave up five runs, four earned, on three hits, two walks and a pair of hit-by-pitches.
After Nick Carrillo walked, Travis Shreve (3-for-4) singled and Ronnie Richardson was hit by his 57th-career pitch, Sweeney unloaded on a 3-1 fastball, sending it to left-center to score a pair. Chris Taladay followed up with a two-run single to left field, and D.J. Hicks lined a single over the second baseman's head for RBI No. 66.
The offense struck once again in the fourth inning after Rice booted a potential double play. Friedrich made the Owls pay after digging out a 1-1 pitch and sending it to left-center for his 21st double of the year and 3 RBI.
Rice put up three runs in the top of the fifth before the game was halted after a lightning strike lit up the sky behind center field. After nearly a 19-hour delay, Roman Madrid took over on the mound with the bases loaded and a 2-1 count. The Owls scored three runs before Friedrich's laser throw from right field to home plate led to the third out.
News & Notes: -Hicks was named a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy Friday afternoon. It was the second-straight year the first baseman has made the cut for the award that goes out to the nation's top player
-It was the second-straight contest the Knights had a five-run inning. UCF put up five runs in the fourth inning against Marshall before putting up a five-spot in the third against Rice
-Sweeney stole his 19th base of the season and adds to his career year in that department
-The Knights recorded six two-out hits in the game