May 16, 2014
By Dan Forcella
STORRS, Conn. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF baseball team scored four runs in the third inning and withstood a late UConn rally to earn a 7-6 victory over the Huskies, avoiding a weekend sweep in Storrs on Friday afternoon.
The Knights (34-22, 17-7) secured at least the second seed in next week's American Athletic Conference Tournament with the victory. UCF would need Cincinnati to top Louisville on Friday and Saturday to win the regular season championship and earn the number one seed at the championships in Clearwater.
It was a tremendous, gutsy win, Head Coach Terry Rooney said. Today was a great win for us, and the epitome of a team win. You look at it from start to finish, there were so many different contributors both on the mound and at the plate.
I thought our defense was fantastic, Rooney went on to say. We held on in another one-run game against a very good UConn team. The bottom line is that it was a tremendous team win from start to finish.
After UCF got out to a 1-0 lead when Dylan Moore led off with a double and scored on a wild pitch in the top of the first, the Knights got into trouble in the bottom of the inning. UCF went through two pitchers, giving up four runs, before Robby Howell came in to stop the bleeding with a ground ball double play to end the first.
That would prove to be a trend for the Knights and Howell. The right-hander faced the minimum amount of batters in the second and third, concluding each with a ground ball double play.
UCF helped Howell out with a solo home run by Jordan Savinon in the second and four runs in the third to give the Knights a 6-4 advantage through three. Moore and Erik Barber walked before three hits put UCF on top.
James Vasquez singled to drive in a pair of runs, Tommy Williams drove in Vasquez with a double to the gap, and Savinon put a cap on the Knights' third inning scoring with a double to left that drove in Williams.
UCF made it 7-4 on an RBI single by JoMarcos Woods in the fifth, and UConn (26-29, 9-14) finally got to Howell with three hits and a hit-by-pitch in the next half inning. The Huskies scored two runs to cut it 7-6, but it could have been more.
Once again, Howell got out of the frame with a double play, but this time it wasn't the ordinary. UConn's Nico Darras laid down a bunt back to Howell, who immediately went home to get the runner attempting to score from third. Savinon threw to Kam Gellinger who tagged the runner and immediately threw to Vasquez at first to get Darrus. The UCF first baseman ran down Darrus who was caught between first and second after reaching on the fielder's choice.
Spencer Davis relieved Howell for the sixth and pitched three innings of shutout baseball while allowing just one hit. After coming back out for the ninth, Davis allowed a single and then threw straight balls, before Rooney went back to the pen.
After a fourth ball put two runners on, and a sac bunt moved the runners to second and third, UCF intentionally walked Blake Davey to load the bases.
That was when Parker Thomas came on to face Bobby Melley, who was 3-for-4 on the day coming into the ninth. For the fifth time in the game, UCF induced a double play to end the inning, this time it was Thomas forcing a 6-4-3 ground ball double-play to give UCF the 7-6 victory and earn his first save of the season.
We battled back offensively, Rooney said. But one of the highlights of our team this year has been our bullpen. Everyone has contributed at some point and our bullpen has been fantastic all year. Today was another example of that.
Howell (3-1) earned the win on the mound after allowing two runs on five hits, striking out three and walking none in four and two-thirds innings of relief. Thomas picked up the save with the double-play to end the game. UConn's Callahan Brown (1-1) picked up the loss after allowing five runs on four hits and three walks in two and one third innings.
The Knights will now turn their attention to The American Tournament. UCF will play in a pool of four teams with the goal of advancing to the championship game on Sunday. The tournament will be held at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.