May 15, 2014
By Dan Forcella
STORRS, Conn. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF baseball team suffered a pair of one-run losses to UConn in an American Athletic Conference doubleheader Thursday afternoon. The Huskies won 5-4 in game one and then won 6-5 on a walk-off single in the ninth in game two at J.O. Christian Field.
With the two losses, the Knights (33-22, 16-7 The American) have now dropped their last two conference series, and will need a lot of help of Cincinnati to keep up hope for a regular season championship. UCF needs a win on Friday and for Louisville to lose two of three to the Bearcats on the weekend.
UConn (26-28, 9-13 The American) clinched its spot in the league tournament next week with the two victories. The Huskies secured their third conference series win of the season, also having defeated Cincinnati and Memphis earlier in the season.
Game three between UCF and UConn, which was originally scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. in New Britain, will now be played Friday at noon in Storrs. Marc Daniels will be on the call with coverage on AM 740 The Game beginning at noon.
The Huskies struck first in game one, as Bryan Daniello led off the bottom of the third with a walk and scored from third on a bunt single by Tom Verdi. After another infield single loaded the bases for UConn, UCF starting pitcher Eric Skoglund got out of the jam with a strikeout and a fly out.
The Knights answered quickly, though, scoring two runs on three hits in the top of the fourth. Erik Barber and James Vasquez got things started with a pair of singles to put runners on the corners. Matt Diorio then drove in Barber with another single, before Vasquez came in to score on a wild pitch to make it 2-1 in favor of UCF.
Skoglund (9-2) kept the Huskies at bay for much of the outing, but couldn't get out of the seventh when UConn put up four runs on the Knights' ace. A walk, a single through the infield, and then two RBI bunt singles made it 4-2. An RBI double down the line put UConn up 5-2 and pushed Skoglund out of the game.
The junior left-hander was credited with just his second loss of the season after allowing five runs, three of which were earned, on eight hits in six and one third innings. Skoglund struck out six and walked three in the defeat.
The Knights fought back, scoring one on singles by Vasquez and Tommy Williams in the eighth, and another as Derrick Salberg's single drove in Dylan Moore, who doubled earlier in the ninth. That was all UCF had though as UConn closed it out for the 5-4 victory.
Anthony Marzi (5-6) earned the win after allowing two runs, only one earned, on five hits in seven innings pitched. UConn was led at the plate by Tom Verdi, who had two hits and two RBIs in the win.
It was the Knights who took the first lead in the back half of the doubleheader, as Moore sent his second homer of the season over the left field wall to lead off the game.
Unfortunately for UCF, UConn fired back with three runs in the bottom of the first to take control again. A trio of singles and a hit-by-pitch put the Huskies up 3-1 after one, and forced starter Tanner Olson out of the game.
Another solo homer for the Knights, this one Barber's fifth of 2014, brought it back to a one-run game at 3-2. But again UConn countered. The Huskies extended their lead to 5-2 on a two-run homer to left by Max McDowell.
The home run was the only thing that tarnished reliever Zach Rodgers' outing. The right-hander went a career-high seven innings, allowing two runs, while scattering eight hits, striking out three and walking none.
The Knights chipped away at the deficit with three hits in the sixth, as JoMarcos Woods drove in Diorio with a single through the infield in the top of the sixth. It wasn't until the ninth, however, that UCF forced UConn's hand.
Woods led off the final inning with a walk, before Moore singled through the infield to put two on. Salberg then pushed the runners to second and third with a sac bunt. After a strikeout by Barber left the Knights with their final out, Vasquez stepped to the plate.
The big first baseman was down to his final strike when he pulled one to the hole between the first and second baseman, driving in Woods and Moore, and making it safely to first, tying the game at 5-5.
Zac Favre (1-1), who pitched two-thirds of an inning of perfect relief in game one, came on for Rodgers in the ninth. After a fly out and a strikeout to start the frame, UConn recorded back-to-back singles for the walk-off 6-5 win over UCF.
Anthony Kay (5-4), who was scheduled to start game three of the series, came on in relief in both games on Thursday, picked up the win after allowing just one hit and no runs in the ninth.