UCF's Win vs. Miami Actually Started at Stetson One Week Ago

March 24, 2010

By Brian Ormiston

Orlando, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Only 22 games into the 2010 season, UCF has already experienced a wild ride. And thankfully that ride is currently giving the Knights a lot of momentum going into the Conference USA schedule and a three-game series at Houston this weekend.

A 6-3 win at No. 12 Miami March 23 came as a surprise to many after the Knights dropped a 19-2 decision to the Hurricanes in Orlando March 9. How could the Black and Gold make such a drastic turnaround in only a two-week span?

After that loss to UM, UCF suffered a 12-11 heartbreak to Hartford to extend a six-game losing streak. That streak occurred after the Knights shot off to a 7-1 start, with their only loss a one-run margin at No. 5 Florida.

Even though the Hawks came out on top, the Knights bats did wake up. The next two days they would score 46 runs for a pair of victories over Hartford, yet they went back to sleep in a 4-0 margin against South Florida March 16. That did prove that pitching was turning the corner, yet it brought up another question: When would the offense and pitching flourish on the same night?

And then UCF made the short journey to Stetson one day later.

Holding a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third, UCF witnessed the Hatters put together a rally to tie it up. They still had two runners on with one out when a simple foul pop up changed the entire attitude of the Knights.

Third baseman Derek Luciano, a junior flirting with .400 at the plate, and catcher Beau Taylor, a Johnny Bench Award Watch List selection, raced after it and while Taylor came down with it, the duo traded hard elbows to the face in a heavy collision. That blow took out two of UCF's top players at a time when Stetson had all of the momentum.

"That Stetson game I thought was a defining moment in our season," said head coach Terry Rooney. "In every season there is a defining moment. And I feel like in that Stetson game perhaps that was it."

What Rooney refers to is how his team responded. Instead of caving under the pressure, the Knights came together.

"We had been struggling for about a week and a half, and when that injury happened, this team could have gone one of two ways at that moment. We already had some guys injured and it would have been very easy to say `oh no, we have a couple more injuries.' But instead these guys rallied, we overcame it and came back to win that game. Since that point we really turned the corner."

UCF amassed 18 hits in that win over the Hatters, did not commit and error and held its opponent to 10 hits. During its losing streak, the Knights saw their competition rack up an average of 14.7 hits per game while their defense was shaky.

When Presbyterian College strolled into Orlando, UCF combined to post 44 hits, commit just four errors and hold the Blue Hose to only four runs on 14 hits in the three games.

Off to Miami.

Both teams carried four-game winning streaks and were victorious in six of their last seven. In UCF's first trip to Coral Gables since 1995, it fell behind 2-1 in the fourth. Still with that 19-2 loss in their minds, the Knights did not want to duplicate that result and once again fought back, scoring three in the fifth.

"That was huge," said Rooney. "It shows the confidence in which this baseball team is playing with. And the great thing in the last week or so is that we are getting contributions from so many different players."

UM did make it 4-3 in the seventh, but two homers in the eighth and a solid bullpen preserved the upset over the Hurricanes. UCF outhit the home team 10-8 and did not record a miscue in the field. What was noteworthy was that its lineup featured four players not originally slated to be starters at the beginning of the year. And they all came through.

Freshmen Ryan Breen and Chris Taladay batted second and third, respectively, and started the key rally in the fifth with base hits. Freshman second baseman Austin Johnston had a hit and scored a run, and made key defensive plays. And sophomore center fielder Alex Friedrich led off the eighth with a solo homer to give UCF breathing room.

Mix in Shane Brown's two hits and a homer, Chris Duffy's two hits and Darnell Sweeney's RBI single in the second, and UCF's lineup was very dynamic. On the other side, starting pitcher Johnny Sedlock threw 3.0 scoreless innings, Brennan Dobbins got the win in an inning of work, and Brian Adkins and Chase Bradford defined the term "pitching in the clutch" by going the final 4.0 innings with just three hits, one run and one walk against. Adkins retired four on strikes, all with runners in scoring position.

Sitting at 14-8 and on a five-game winning streak, UCF will now continue its ride through the 2010 season at Houston. After its weekend rotation dominated on the hill and the hitters lit up the scoreboard routinely vs. Presbyterian last weekend, the Knights will be hoping their return trip to Orlando on Sunday will be just as enjoyable as their bus ride back from Coral Gables March 23.

Ticket plans for the 2010 campaign are already on sale. To purchase tickets, call 407-823-1000 or visit UCFAthletics.com. And for the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains Golden Knights Club donor information, is the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures, and become a follower of the Knights at Twitter.com.