UCF Improves to 15-4 After Three-Hitting Columbia


March 19, 2011

Final Stats

UCF vs. Columbia
March 19, 2011
From Orlando, Fla.
Team R H E
Columbia 2 3 1
UCF 5 11 1

WP: Lively (4-0), 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K
LP: Whitaker (1-2), 5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
SV: Cicio (3), 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

Game-Changing Moment
When Nick Cicio stepped out of the pen in the top of the seventh. After Columbia scored one run each in the fifth and sixth, Cicio kept the Lions at bay by needing just seven pitches to get out of the seventh and he cruised the rest of the way.

Three Stars
First: UCF RP Nick Cicio, SV, 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K
Second: UCF RF Erik Hempe, 3-for-4, 2 2B, 2 R
Third: UCF 3B Chris Taladay, 2-for-4, 2 2B, RBI, R

Sunday Preview in PDF Format

By Brian Ormiston

Box Score in PDF Format

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Pitchers Ben Lively and Nick Cicio held Columbia to just three hits as UCF took down the Lions (7-5), 5-2, Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Knights (15-4) secured another series victory this year and will go for the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m.

"We're pleased with another win, and we're finding different ways to win. That's the sign of a very good team," said head coach Terry Rooney. "But we have to develop a little bit of an edge. And what I mean by that is that we had opportunities to expand on that lead several times, and we didn't. What happens when you don't get those big hits, you will get to the seventh and eighth innings and it's a (close) ballgame. But today I'm proud of the way we won the last three innings and how we finished strong."

Not surrendering a hit until the fifth inning, Lively sat down eight in a row from the second to the end of the fourth en route to stretching his record to 4-0 during his freshman campaign. The righty struck out five in the process.

Lively was relieved in the seventh where Cicio retired the first eight hitters he faced and worked around a two-out error by the defense in the ninth to easily nab his third save of the year. In all, Cicio struck out three and the error was the only Columbia batter that reached against him.

"My role is a little bit different than last year, but I want to help this team in any way possible," said Cicio, who started nine games as a junior in 2010. "I kind of like this role. I'm comfortable with coach Rooney and Beau Taylor behind the plate. It's been fun and I've been going out there having a good time."

The pitching duo was backed by 11 hits from the bats, which were paced by Erik Hempe who finished 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two runs. Ronnie Richardson reached base all four times out of the cleanup hole, Chris Taladay smacked two doubles, Darnell Sweeney rapped out two hits and D.J. Hicks crushed his fifth homer of the year Saturday.

Back-to-back doubles by Sweeney and Taladay gave UCF the early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first against right-hander Geoff Whitaker. However the Knights left two runners aboard with only one out in the frame.

Although it failed to produce more runs in the first, Hicks dug in to lead off the second and promptly stroked a solo homer over the center-field wall. Later in the inning, Sweeney drove in Hempe on a two-out RBI single to right to bring the lead to 3-0.

Columbia's first scoring chance came in the fifth when Lively walked to a pair, and with two outs, Nick Cox ripped a RBI single to center to cut it to 3-1. The base hit was the first of the game for the Lions.

Now with a two-run lead, Taladay came through with another double in the home half of the fifth and eventually scored on a single off the bat of Ronnie Richardson and a throwing error. Columbia answered right back in the sixth, though, on a two-out solo blast from Jason Banos and the Black and Gold advantage was back to two runs at 4-2.

Similar to the fifth, UCF struck again in the sixth. With two down and Stefan Olson now on the hill, Hempe started a small rally with a double to left and pinch-hitter Ryan Breen banged out a RBI single to right.

The three-run cushion proved to be enough for Cicio, who enabled a vocal crowd to leave the park happy Saturday by blanking the Lions for the final three innings.

The Knights' 13-game homestand comes to a close with the series finale against Columbia Sunday at 1 p.m.

Game Notes
Columbia - 7-5 Overall
UCF - 15-4 Overall
-Chris Taladay, last year's C-USA Freshman of the Year at third base, made his first start at the hot corner this season after making his first 13 starts in left field.
-Kevin Vasquez made his first start of 2011, batting ninth and playing left field.
-Three hits by Columbia were the second-fewest by a UCF opponent this year (Bethune-Cookman had two Feb. 22).
-Nick Cicio's ERA dropped to 0.60, as he has allowed just one run in 15.0 innings (six appearances).
-With one more on Saturday, Darnell Sweeney leads the Knights with 10 doubles.