ORLANDO – Home sweet home? Hey, maybe there's a chance of that after all for the UCF baseball team.
The Knights came up with their second homefield win in three days Sunday afternoon—the first two of 2021 at John Euliano Park—with a 3-2 walk-off win over North Florida in 10 innings.
It took a one-out, first-pitch rocket to the right-field corner by sophomore designated hitter Tom Josten. That hit plated Pablo Ruiz who had walked—just after leadoff man Trent Taylor walked and then was picked off.
It marked the first walk-off win for the Knights since the 2019 American Athletic Conference Championship versus Memphis.
The extra-inning heroics barely blurred a blue-chip pitching outing by UCF junior right-hander Jack Sinclair who pitched six shutout innings and allowed only three hits (with five strikeouts) in his longest career outing. It marked only his second start of 2021--his other involved three perfect innings versus Liberty March 3 in a game UCF ultimately lost. In this one he allowed only two Osprey runners to reach second base.
For the second straight game UCF benefited from a first-inning home run—this one by senior right-fielder Jordan Rathbone (his fourth of 2021) clearing the fence in left field.
The Knights added a second run in the third after Rathbone was hit by a pitch, Josh Crouch knocked a ground-rule double on one bounce over the center-field fence—then Rathbone scored when Ben Cabe grounded out.
The visitors doubled their hit total in the seventh with three hits that accounted for the two UNF runs. Grant Grodi had the one-out two-run single for the Ospreys.
North Florida threatened with three consecutive two-out singles in the ninth before number-nine hitter Austin Bogart hit into a fielder's choice.
The victory allowed UCF to breathe a sigh of relief after knocking out 11 hits and receiving six walks and one batter hit by a pitch. The Knights left 13 men on base.
The top hitters for UCF in the four-game series against North Florida? Matt Archer was seven for 15, Rathbone six for 11 and Crouch six for 13.
Home sweet home? The Knights are now 2-5 at John Euliano Park compared to 4-4 on the road.
But, after this weekend UCF head coach Greg Lovelady's charges are headed in the right direction when it comes to protecting their home turf.
UCF (6-9) – 3, North Florida (5-11) – 2 (10 innings)
Winning Pitcher: David Litchfield (2-1)
Losing Pitcher: Eddie Miller (0-1)
Top Hitters: Josh Crouch (3-3), Jordan Rathbone (2-4, 2 runs, 1 RBI, 1 HR), Tom Josten (2-5, 1 RBY, GW double), Matt Archer (2-4)
Top Pitchers: Jack Sinclair (6.0 IP, 3 hits, 5 K, 1 BB), David Litchfield (3.0 IP, 3 hits, 1 SO, 2 BB)
- UCF leads the all-time series against UNF by a 14-12.
- The Knights are now 3-4 against teams from Florida in 2021.
- Gephry Pena's on-base streak remains 18 straight games, dating back to March 6, 2020 (he did not play today).
- The Knights now have hit a home run in the first inning of three straight games—with Jordan Rathbone doing it Friday night and today and Alex Freeland accomplishing the feat Saturday night.
- Today's win means UCF clinched a weekend series for the second time in three weeks—taking three of four from North Florida after winning two of three two weeks back on the road against top-rated Ole Miss.
UCF welcomes Florida Atlantic to John Euliano Park for the final game of the season series—with first pitch at 6 p.m. Tuesday (March 16).
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