UCF Pounds Out 17 Hits in 10-5 Win over Monmouth


March 8, 2009

Final Stats

Box Score in PDF Format

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Home runs by sophomore Stephen Branca and junior Chris Duffy gave the UCF baseball team the lead for good in the seventh inning in a 10-5 victory over Monmouth Sunday. The win ensured the Knights of claiming the series with the Hawks (1-5), while it also improved the Black and Gold's record to 4-7 on the year.

For an offense that posted a season-high 17 hits and had all nine starters collect at least one base hit, the top and bottom of the order were brand new to the UCF lineup Sunday. After sitting out the first 10 games of the year with an injury, Branca started at second base and batted leadoff. He quickly provided a spark by going 3-for-5 with three RBI and two runs scored, all of which were career-highs. Branca's homer, meanwhile, was his first at the Division I level.

"I couldn't wait to play and when I got the opportunity I wanted to make the best of it," said Branca, who was making his fourth-career start. "My teammates have been working their butts off all year and I just wanted to go out there and play my game. Everybody else did their job today and we got it done."

In the No. 9 hole, freshman Alex Friedrich got the start in center field after making his first collegiate appearance Saturday, going 1-for-2 off the bench. In his second game, he went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs.

Also pacing the Knights' bats, senior Eric Kallstrom notched two doubles and routinely made some impressive plays at shortstop all game long.

On the mound, senior starter Caleb Graham finished his afternoon with 5.2 innings of work, striking out four. Junior Cory Weech (1-0) picked up the win in relief as the Knights did not walk a single batter in the game.

Having the bases empty with two down in the top of the first did not affect Monmouth, as it still got on the board thanks to a double from Nick Pulsonetti and a single from Paul Bottigliero off Graham. The Hawks tacked on one more on a groundout in the second.

Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the second, the Knights used three extra-base hits to post a four-run frame. With one down, sophomore Evan Stobbs reached on a single and came around by way of freshman Beau Taylor's double down the left-field line. Kallstrom then hit the left-center gap for a two-bagger, and following a hit by pitch to Friedrich, Branca lined the first pitch he saw into the left-field corner, plating both Kallstrom and Friedrich.

Just like Monmouth's two-run lead was erased, so was UCF's as the Hawks responded with two more in the fourth to even it at 4-4. They tried to go ahead in the sixth, putting two runners in scoring position with two down. That was when Weech stepped in and promptly struck out Pulsonetti on a called strike on the outside part of the plate to end the threat.

However, Monmouth attempted to take the lead again in the seventh and this time was successful, taking advantage of an error to score an unearned run.

UCF replied quickly in the home half as Branca greeted reliever Matt Frazier with a solo dinger to left, tying it back up at 5-5. That did not stop the Black and Gold offense. Frazier then plunked senior Kiko Vazquez with one down and Duffy came through by blasting a 2-0 offering over the left-center fence to help the Knights take a 7-5 lead. It was Duffy's second shot of the season and 18th of his career.

The barrage of hits continued in the eighth. Kicked off by Friedrich's one-out single, freshman Jake Huxtable, Vazquez and senior Brandon Romans later all added RBI hits to double up on the Hawks, 10-5. Two days after earning his first collegiate win, freshman reliever D.J. Hicks tossed the final two scoreless innings to grab his first save.

UCF will now have six games this week, starting with a home-and-home against USF. The Knights and Bulls do battle in Tampa Tuesday at 7 p.m. while they get together in Orlando Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., which airs on Bright House Sports Network (tape-delayed to 8 p.m. that night).

Baseball season and single game tickets are on sale now for the 2009 campaign. Call the UCF Ticket Office at (407) 823-1000 for more information. Fans may also visit UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, and is the home of UCF's online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.

Game Notes
Monmouth - 1-5 overall
UCF - 4-7 overall
WP: Cory Weech (1-0), 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
LP: Matt Frazier (0-1), 0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
SV: D.J. Hicks (1), 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1K
-UCF and Monmouth have now played a weekend series every year since 2002, with the Knights taking the series seven of eight times.
-Stephen Branca, Jake Huxtable, Brandon Romans, Evan Stobbs, Beau Taylor, Eric Kallstrom and Alex Friedrich all had at least two hits in the victory.
-Branca fell just a triple short of hitting for the cycle.
-Freshman catcher Beau Taylor threw out his sixth would-be basestealer Sunday afternoon.
-UCF pitchers did not walk a batter for the third time this year.
-Kiko Vazquez, who batted fifth in the first 10 games, moved up to No. 3 and had a RBI single and also scored a run.
-Caleb Graham kept finding the strike zone Sunday, as he finished with 86 pitches with 69 of them strikes, meaning 80.2 percent of his pitches hit the zone.