May 2, 2014
By Dan Forcella
HOUSTON, Texas (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF baseball team took a three-game lead in the American Athletic Conference standings with a 4-3 victory over Houston in the first contest of a three-game series at Cougar Field Friday night.
The no. 18-ranked Knights (29-16, 16-3 The American) used another strong outing from junior Eric Skoglund on the mound, who allowed just two earned runs while scattering eight hits and striking out five in 6.2 innings of work. The left-hander improved to 8-1 on the season with the win.
That's Friday night in college baseball right there, UCF head coach Terry Rooney said after the game. What a tremendous game. It was two great teams going at it, working pitch-for-pitch. Houston has an outstanding club. There pitcher did a nice job and so did Skoglund.
UCF took a 4-0 lead over the no. 13-ranked Cougars (33-13, 8-8 The American), before allowing Houston back in the game at 4-3. Junior Zach Rodgers came out of the bullpen to pitch 2.1 innings of shutout baseball, picking up his fifth save on the year to preserve the victory.
The Knights got on the board first when Kam Gellinger drove in Sam Tolleson with a sacrifice fly to left field. Tolleson led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a single to center by Tommy Williams, and then reached third when Jordan Savinon laid down a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher.
UCF extended its lead in the next inning behind James Vasquez's fifth home run of the season. The junior took Houston starter Aaron Garza (6-4) over the right field fence to make it 3-0 as he drove in Derrick Salberg, who reached on an infield single earlier in the frame.
After Williams led off the fourth with a single up the middle, Garza put the next two batters away, but JoMarcos Woods didn't let him out of the jam when he pulled one deep to left. Houston's Kyle Survance jumped up on the wall, reaching over to make the catch, but the ball came out of his glove and back into the field of play. Woods ended up with a triple on the play, driving in Williams to make it 4-0 Knights.
Houston picked up one run on a couple of hits in the fifth, but it was in the seventh that the Cougars did their damage to get back in the game. Skoglund gave up three singles and a walk as Houston made it 4-2. Parker Thomas then came on in relief, giving up another RBI single to cut the Cougars' deficit to just 4-3.
Rooney went to the pen for the second and final time, calling on Zach Rodgers to get UCF out of the jam. After giving up an infield single to Josh Vidales, Rodgers worked a full count against Connor Hollis, before getting the Houston third baseman to strike out looking to end the inning.
Rodgers came back to the mound in the eighth and the ninth to close it out for the Knights. The right-hander got another strike out to end the penultimate frame, and then sandwiched a couple of fly outs to left around a single and a ground out to finish things off in the ninth.
We talk a lot about winning the last three innings, Rooney said. When you're behind late, you need the confidence to come back. When you're ahead, you need the poise to hang on to the lead. The guys showed tremendous poise tonight.
Skoglund earned the win for UCF, while Garza picked up the loss for Houston. Rodgers recorded his fifth save of the season. Williams led the Knights at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a run scored.
The two teams will be back in action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. UCF right-hander Ryan Meyer (3-1, 1.82 ERA) is set to take on Houston righty Jake Lemoine (5-4, 1.92 ERA).