UCF's Run in the C-USA Championship Comes to a Close with Loss to No. 15 Rice

May 27, 2011

UCF vs. Rice
May 27, 2011
From Pearl, Miss.
Team R H E
No. 4 UCF 2 9 1
No. 1 Rice 4 7 2

WP: Gonzales (7-2), 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
LP: Bradford (6-2), 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
SV: Cingrani (10), 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Game-Changing Moment
UCF was hoping to climb back from a 4-2 hole in the top of the seventh, and got two aboard with a pair of walks with one out. However Rice closer Tony Cingrani entered to get the final two outs to preserve the Owls' lead.

Three Stars
First: RICE RP Tony Cingrani, SV, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
Second: UCF RP Johnny Sedlock, 3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 K
Third: RICE 1B J.T. Chargois, 1-for-3, 2 R, HR

By Brian Ormiston

Box Score in PDF Format

PEARL, Miss. (UCFAthletics.com) - With a spot in the title game on the line, No. 4 seed UCF suffered a 4-2 loss to No. 1 seed and 15th-ranked Rice Friday in the final day of pool play at the Conference USA Championship presented by Trustmark in Pearl, Miss. The Owls (40-19) will battle No. 6 Houston Saturday for the C-USA crown, while the Knights (38-21) are still in great shape for a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

UCF went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the loss to Rice.

"It was a great college baseball game. Both pitchers battled back and forth but at the end of the day they got a couple bigger two out hits than we did. That was the difference in the game" said head coach Terry Rooney. "But we feel very fortunate that although our C-USA tournament is over, that we are on our way to the NCAA postseason."

Junior catcher Beau Taylor extended his hitting streak to 15 games Friday. The Rockledge native already holds the UCF all-time record with a hit in 26-straight games (tied with Mike Myers) from April 13, 2010, to Feb. 25, 2011. Also with the stick, Ryan Breen and D.J. Hicks both amassed three hits.

On the hill, following Chase Bradford's 4.2-inning start, Johnny Sedlock blanked Rice with 3.1 shutout innings, striking out a pair of Owls and giving up just one hit. In two appearances at Trustmark Park this week, Sedlock combined to pitch 8.0 innings, surrendering only one run on six hits and picking up five strikeouts.

Rice gift-wrapped a scoring opportunity right away as it misplayed two-straight groundballs in the top of the first. With Ronnie Richardson and Taylor on first and third, respectively, with no outs, Hicks lined the second pitch he saw from lefty Abe Gonzales into right field for a RBI single. The Knights then had runners at first and second and still with nobody outs however they were unable to produce another run.

Holding an early lead, UCF knew Rice would be a handful if it wanted to remain ahead since the Owls erased a 5-0 first-inning deficit to Memphis Thursday. And that proved to be the case in the bottom half of the first where Rice loaded the bases with no outs vs. Bradford and the Owls would storm away with a 2-1 lead on a two-out, two-run single from Craig Manuel.

Drawing even at 2-2 in the third, the Black and Gold used three groundballs to tie it up as Richardson led off with a double inside the third-base bag and Taylor and Hicks both grounded out to second to bring home the center fielder. Yet Rice responded again, taking advantage of a four-pitch leadoff walk in the fourth to plate a run on a sacrifice fly.

UCF was poised to put up a run against Gonzales in the fifth, sending runners out to first and third with two outs. However Jonathan Griffin's potential groundball double into the left-field corner was snagged by third baseman Shane Hoelscher who threw out Griffin to end the inning.

As the Knights were unable to get their third run, Rice quickly got on the board again on a two-strike solo homer by J.T. Chargois in its next trip to the dish. It remained 4-2 after the top of the sixth when UCF could not capitalize with runners at second and third with two outs, and again after the seventh where the Knights had two baserunners with one out.

Rice closer Tony Cingrani, who came on in the seventh, cruised through the final two innings to enable the Owls to reach Saturday's title game with Houston.

As UCF brought a RPI of No. 15 into Friday, the Knights will learn their NCAA fate Monday when the field of 64 is announced at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Game Notes
No. 4 UCF - 38-21 Overall
No. 1 Rice - 40-19 Overall
-UCF's record fell to 8-8 against ranked teams this season.
-With a 2-1 record, the Knights finished with their best performance in the C-USA Championship since joining the league in 2006 (UCF was previously a combined 1-6 in three appearances in the tournament before 2011).
-Jonathan Griffin's streak of a home run in three-straight games was halted Friday.