UCF Cannot Hold On to Late Lead in 8-7 Loss at No. 2 Rice


May 10, 2009

Final Stats

Box Score in PDF Format

HOUSTON, Texas (UCFAthletics.com) - No. 2 Rice erased a 7-4 deficit in the seventh inning and ruined UCF's hopes of a series victory as the Owls earned an 8-7 win Sunday at Reckling Park in Houston. Giving the Knights' their 10th-consecutive Conference USA start of at least 5.0 innings on the mound, senior Kyle Sweat hurled five frames for the Black and Gold (19-32, 7-14), holding the Owls (33-13, 15-6) to just one earned run on five hits.

It was Sweat's fifth-straight start of five innings or more, and the third time in three-career starts against Rice he lasted at least five stanzas. In all three of those appearances, Sweat limited the Owls, who were ranked in the top six in the country each year, to three earned runs or less.

The UCF bats pounded out 10 hits on the afternoon, with the final base hit almost allowing the Knights to complete a comeback of their own. With two down in the ninth, senior Kiko Vazquez delivered a single into left field with pinch-runner Austin Smith at second. Outfielder Michael Fuda, who was playing shallow, gathered it quickly and fired a strike to home plate that beat Smith for the third and final out of the game.

Vazquez completed his afternoon by going 3-for-5, while junior Shane Brown and senior Brandon Romans racked up two hits apiece.

An error and a walk gave Rice a scoring opportunity immediate in the first vs. Sweat. Following a fielder's choice at second, Anthony Rendon singled to center to plate the first run and the Owls added another unearned run to open up a 2-0 lead.

Rice's defense continued the trend of unearned runs in the second, where Romans reached on a throwing error by Rendon at third. The Knights' right fielder eventually traveled to third with two down and after a walk by Mike Ojala to freshman D.J. Hicks, junior Chris Duffy dropped a RBI single into center.

And they were back at it in the fourth when the Owls went to Matthew Reckling in the pen. Vazquez kick-started the UCF bats with a one-out single to left, and Reckling then could not find the plate, issuing free passes to both Hicks and Duffy. Right-hander Jordan Rogers entered and promptly threw a wild pitch on his first delivery, enabling the Black and Gold to tie it up. Two more walks later and UCF took the lead.

Not content with a 3-2 advantage, Brown may have fallen behind 0-2 but still found a way to punch a two-run single into right-center, stretching the advantage to three runs.

Still dealing for the Knights, Sweat returned to the hill for the home half of the fourth and was greeted with a solo homer from Steven Sultzbaugh. But he kept UCF in the lead through his five innings of work. Hicks took over in relief for the sixth and although the Owls loaded them up with one out, the righty surrendered just one run on a fielder's choice.

That proved to be a huge performance on the mound, as another freshman came through with the aluminum in the seventh. Thanks to senior Eric Kallstrom getting hit by a pitch, the Knights had their first runner. Romans then connected for a one-out single and after moving over to second, Beau Taylor placed a two-run single into right-center, handing the Knights another three-run cushion.

While UCF led the majority of the middle innings, one swing ruined its momentum in the bottom of the seventh. With two aboard and two down, Diego Seastrunk tied things up at 7-7 by ripping a three-run job just over the right-field fence. One inning later, the Owls went ahead with two outs again, this time scoring on a two-strike wild pitch with Jimmy Comerota at third base. Those two plays were all Rice needed to lock up the series with the Knights.

UCF will now conclude its non-conference schedule on the road when it travels to DeLand to face Stetson Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on tape-delay on Bright House Sports Network. It was originally scheduled for March 31 but had to be postponed due to rain.

Tickets are on sale now for UCF's final three home games of the season against Houston May 14-16, highlighted by the series finale in which the Knights will acknowledge their seniors. 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
UCF - 19-32 Overall, 7-14 Conference USA
No. 2 Rice - 33-13 Overall, 15-6 Conference USA
WP: Matt Evers (4-2), 2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
LP: D.J. Hicks (4-5), 2.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
- Beau Taylor and Shane Brown drove in four of the Knights' seven runs.
- Kiko Vazquez and D.J. Hicks each batted .500 vs. the Owls in the series, while Chris Duffy was 4-for-9 for a .444 average.
- On the mound, UCF's ERA of 4.32 was slightly better than Rice's (4.33) for the three-game weekend. The staff issued just nine walks compared to the Owls' 14.
- No. 2 Rice only outscored UCF 18-14 in the series, and outhit the Black and Gold by just a 33-29 margin.
- Combined with his relief appearance and save in Friday's night's victory, Kyle Sweat had a 1.17 ERA with just one earned run allowed in 7.2 innings in Houston.