June 1, 2012
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Not long after completing what he would later call ``the biggest inning I've ever pitched in my life,'' Joe Rogers knew that his UCF Knights were poised to grab control of Friday's NCAA Regional game.
Just minutes after Rogers worked out of a bases loaded, no-out jam with the score tied at 1-all in the eighth inning, UCF mounted a rally that would allow them to defeat Missouri State, 2-1.
``Once I got out of that inning, there was a renewed vibe on our team,'' Rogers said. ``You could feel it in the dugout and I knew we were going to do something there.''
Sure enough, Ronnie Richardson opened the bottom of the eighth inning with a single and scored on a hit to right field by Chris Taladay. Following a 2-hour, 40-minute rain delay, Chris Matulis made the 2-1 lead stand up with the first save of his college career.
None of those heroics would have been possible had Rogers not worked out of the jam that he created in the top of the eighth inning. UCF's all-time saves leader allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases. The excitable Rogers, a junior, calmed himself down before going to work on getting out of the jam.
``I just stepped off the back of the mound, took a deep breath and talked to myself a little bit,'' said Rogers (5-1), who earned the victory.
Rogers got Derek Mattea to ground to second where Travis Shreve fired home for a force out. Eric Cheray flied to shortstop and Shreve fielded the final out to allow Rogers and the Knights to escape the eighth inning with no damage.
``It wasn't just me,'' Rogers said. ``We had some big plays from Travis and Darnell (Sweeney) in that inning.''
Rogers said the experience that the Knights gained last season when they reached the Tallahassee region helped tremendously on Friday. The Knights lost Game 1 to Alabama last season and had to play a double-header where they beat Bethune-Cookman and lost again to the Crimson Tide.
``We talked all summer and all season about not wanting to go through what we went through at FSU again,'' said Rogers, who will be available to pitch again on Saturday. ``I knew winning this first game would be the biggest game of the weekend because you have to stay out of the loser's bracket. We're a team on a mission and will do whatever it takes this weekend.''
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.