May 4, 2014
By Dan Forcella
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HOUSTON, Texas (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF baseball team dropped its first conference series of the season, falling to Houston by a score of 5-2 in the series finale Sunday at Cougar Field.
The no. 18 Knights (29-18, 16-5 The American) had not lost a weekend series since dropping two-of-three to Central Michigan back on March 7-9. The no. 13 Cougars (35-13, 10-8 The American), meanwhile, earned their third straight conference series win and are in third place in the league standings.
For the third straight day, UCF took a 1-0 lead over Houston in the top of the first. Dylan Moore started things off with a single to left centerfield, advanced to third on a single by Derrick Salberg, and then came home on an RBI groundout from Erik Barber.
After a pair of scoreless innings, UCF starting pitcher Tanner Olson gave up three to Houston in the third. Olson walked two batters and gave up a single through the infield to load the bases, before Casey Grayson cleared them with a double down the right field line to make it 3-1.
The Knights were unable to get anything going offensively from the second to the fifth, as Houston starter David Longville retired 11 straight UCF batters at one point. The road team finally had a chance to cut into the lead when Barber roped a triple to the left field fence in the top of the sixth.
Then with two outs, and an 0-2 count, Tommy Williams poked a single down the right field line to drive in Barber from third. The shortstop's 36th RBI of the season made it 3-2 in favor of the Cougars.
Unfortunately for the Knights, Houston countered quickly, finally getting to reliever Zach Rodgers. The right-hander faced seven batters before giving up his first hit, which was when a single to center by Connor Hollis started things for the Cougars in the sixth.
A strange inning which saw the Knights drop three pop flies that were lost in the sun, including one in front of the pitcher's mound that fell in for a single, culminated with a two-run single to left by Kyle Survance that made it 5-2 in favor of the Cougars.
UCF was unable to put anything together offensively from that point on as Houston's closer, Chase Wellbrock, came in to pitch 3.1 innings of shutout baseball. Wellbrock earned his 10th save of the season in allowing just three hits, walking one, and striking out four.
Olson fell to 3-3 in the loss after allowing three runs on four hits, walking three, and striking out three. Tyler Ford improved to 6-0 on the year after allowing one run on two hits in 1.1 innings of relief.
Salberg and Barber led UCF with two hits each on the day, while Barber and Williams drove in the Knights' runs. Hollis ended the day 3-for-4 to lead the Cougars at the plate, while Grayson drove in a trio of runs for Houston.
UCF will next play a pair of non-conference contests against Florida Atlantic in the mid-week. The Owls will come to Orlando to play on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., and the Knights will make a return trip to Boca Raton to play Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.