May 22, 2014
By Dan Forcella
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CLEARWATER, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - In just his fourth start of the season, and the first since March 2, freshman Robby Howell led the UCF baseball team to a 6-2 victory over Temple at The American Championship, allowing just one run on six hits in seven and a third innings of work.
First of all, Robby Howell did a terrific job. He was the star of the day, Head Coach Terry Rooney said after the game. Robby is a guy who started out the year in our rotation, has a tremendous future, and [in] his last couple outings out of the bullpen he has been electric.
Howell (4-1) has been solid as of late, making five appearances without allowing a run from March 26 to May 13, but Thursday was easily the best outing of his short career. The right-hander struck out four batters and walked none while pitching well past his previous career-long of four and two thirds innings.
It was a huge team win, Howell told the media after the victory. If it weren't for the defense, I wouldn't be here right now. It was the defense that won this game tonight.
The defense was impressive in making a number of spectacular plays, including a pair from freshman Kam Gellinger at third base. The Knights are at the top of the conference ranks with a .971 fielding percentage.
With the win, UCF (36-22) improves to 2-0 in pool play at this week's tournament in Clearwater. The Knights can advance to the Conference Championship game with a win over Houston Friday at 7 p.m. or win by UConn over Temple Saturday at 11 a.m.
I love coaching this team, Rooney said about his team being in the moment all night long Thursday. Their work ethic, their confidence has always been there.
UCF took its first lead of the night with a lone run in the third, and continually added support for Howell, scoring in five out of six innings to build a 6-1 lead after eight.
Dylan Moore was the catalyst all night long. The second baseman went three-for-four with a double, three runs batted in and a run scored. His sacrifice fly to right field drove in Gellinger in the third to get things going for UCF.
It was another sac fly that extended the Knights' lead to 2-0 in the fourth. After leading off with a single, Erik Barber advanced to second on a wild pitch, and reach third on a ground out. He came in to score on an RBI sac fly from Matt Diorio.
UCF used a two-out rally to make things a bit more comfortable in the fifth. JoMarcos Woods singled and came in to score on a double to the gap by Moore. Moore than came around to make it 4-0 when Derrick Salberg singled to left field.
Each team scored one run in the seventh to give UCF a 5-1 advantage heading into the final two innings. The Knights used small ball to their advantage once again, as Gellinger led the frame off with a bunt single, and advanced to second on Woods' 20th sacrifice bunt of the season. Gellinger came around to score on yet another RBI by Moore, as he singled through the infield.
The Knights tacked on one more in the eighth and Howell came back out to pitch the eighth. After striking out the first batter he faced, he was relieved by Parker Thomas, and headed to the dugout with an ovation from the Knights fans in attendance. Thomas hit the first batter he faced and then ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
Temple (14-32) attempted to get back in it in the ninth as the Owls put the first two batters on with a walk and a single against Jarrod Petree. After Petree threw consecutive balls to the next batter, Zac Favre came in and proceeded to walk Jimmy Kerrigan.
With the bases loaded, Favre gave up a sac fly to center, which made it 6-2, before ending the game with a ground out to short and a ground out back to himself.
Howell earned the win and Temple's Patrick Vanderslice (1-5) picked up the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings of work.
The Knights will conclude pool play on Friday at 7 p.m. against no. 12 Houston with coverage on AM 740 The Game and the American Digital Network. A win would put UCF into Sunday's Championship game to be held Sunday at noon on ESPNU.