April 4, 2014
By Andrew Jennette
TAMPA, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - Friday night's matchup between UCF's Eric Skoglund and USF's Jimmy Herget lived up to the hype as both aces matched each other pitch-for-pitch over eight plus innings. In the end, the Knights came up with a few more clutch hits as they were able to take game one of the series, 2-0, at the USF Baseball Stadium.
I tell you both pitchers did a terrific job. That's Friday night in college baseball right there, head coach Terry Rooney said after the game. Just two outstanding college pitchers. Skoglund did a terrific job for us. He's been doing that all year, giving us an opportunity and a chance to win. It was a tremendous ballgame.
The Knights (19-12, 7-0 The American) have won 10-consecutive games for the first time in Rooney's tenure and now sit three games ahead of the Bulls (17-13, 4-2) for first place in the American Athletic Conference standings.
Skoglund was masterful all evening as he allowed just five hits over eight shutout frames to go along with eight strikeouts. The Sarasota native did not allow a hit until the fourth inning and improved to 5-0 with the win. The Knights' ace lowered his ERA to 1.67 and has now struck out a conference-best 50 on the year.
Herget (4-4) was tagged with the loss, but he pitched eight scoreless innings in between one-run blemishes in the first and ninth innings. The sophomore allowed just five hits and two runs over 8.2 frames while striking out nine.
It was very exciting out there, Skoglund said. USF is a great team and they played very well. We were very excited to keep our momentum going on a Friday night. Herget is an unbelievable pitcher. He's a tough competitor and we were fortunate enough to get a couple of clutch hits.
The Knights jumped on USF early with a run in the top of the first. Junior Derrick Salberg drew a four-pitch walk and immediately swiped second to move into scoring position. The Kelso, Wash., native is now a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts on the year. Junior James Vasquez then came up with his 23rd RBI of the year after a two-out RBI single into center field.
The thing that we talk about all the time is what we call win the last three, Rooney said. In order to win the last three if you're ahead you have to have tremendous poise to hold onto it and if you're behind you have to have tremendous confidence to do it. We figured tonight was going to be an incredibly close game and we'd have to find a way to win the last three.
Junior Zach Rodgers helped UCF win the last three as he pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his third save of the season. After allowing a leadoff single to open the frame, the Glendale, Ariz., native bounced back with a strikeout and a 6-4-3 double play to seal the victory. Rodgers has proven to be very versatile as he is now tied for the team lead in saves while also ranking second on the staff in wins.
The Black and Gold plated a much needed insurance run in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by freshman Kam Gellinger. After Vasquez (2-for-4) led off the frame with a base hit and was moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by junior Sam Tolleson, Gellinger dropped a two-out single into left that helped take some of the pressure off for the bottom of the ninth.
Game two between UCF and South Florida will take place Saturday night with a 6 p.m. first pitch. Junior Tanner Olson (3-1, 3.09 ERA) will make his second-consecutive weekend start for the Knights.
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