May 21, 2014
By Dan Forcella
CLEARWATER, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - Zach Rodgers had filled nearly every role for the UCF baseball team's pitching staff in the regular season. The only thing he hadn't done was start the opening game of a series. On Wednesday he changed that, starting the first game of the American Athletic Conference Championship and hurling a complete game in a 7-1 Knight victory over UConn.
The second team all-conference selection scattered five hits over nine innings, allowing just one run while striking out five and walking one batter as second-seeded UCF opened pool play with the victory over the seventh-seeded Huskies.
"First of all it was a good win today," Head Coach Terry Rooney said after the game. "I'm very excited about the way the guys played and to start off the tournament 1-0, but certainly one of the big stories of the game was Zach Rodgers.
"Rodg has filled a lot of different roles for us this year on the mound," Rooney continued. "He's closed, he's been a go-to-guy, and he's been a starter, and he was just terrific today."
Rodgers (7-1), who was named Wednesday's starter on Tuesday after Head Coach Terry Rooney decided he wanted to give normal opening game starter Eric Skoglund an extra day of rest, not only led the Knights to the win, but he saved the arms out of UCF's bullpen for another day.
"It's whatever Coach wants me to do," Rodgers said of his many roles on the staff. "I want to give my best for this team. It was a good way to get the week started, coming out and swinging the bats really well. It makes my job a lot easier to go out and pound the zone."
The UCF (35-22) offense gave Rodgers plenty of room to work with after exploding for six runs in the bottom of the second to give the Knights a 7-0 advantage early in the contest.
Batting around in the inning, UCF led things off with a pair of singles by Matt Diorio and Tommy Williams. A walk by JoMarcos Woods loaded the bases, before the Knights scored their first run of the frame when UConn starting pitcher Anthony Marzi (5-7) hit Dylan Moore.
Derrick Salberg drove in Williams and Woods with a single down the right field line, and then Moore and Salberg came around to score as Erik Barber reached and ended up at third on a throwing error by Huskies third baseman Bryan Daniello.
UCF finished off the high scoring inning with a double down the right field line by James Vasquez that drove in Barber.
"I thought our guys did a nice job in that inning getting a lot of hits with two outs," Rooney said. "It was a great team win to start the tournament."
The seven-run cushion was more than enough for the Knights to hang on, as Rodgers only gave up one run in the sixth to UConn (26-30) on an RBI double to right field by Blake Davey.
UCF will continue pool play in The American Championship on Thursday. The second-seeded Knights will take on sixth-seeded Temple at 7 p.m. at Bright House Field.