Clearwater, Fla. – The No. 5 seeded Knights took down the No. 4 seed Cincinnati in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament Tuesday morning, 14-10. It was a thriller that saw 12 total runs scored in the last two innings alone.
UCF got on the board early with a solo home run by Josh Crouch to deep left center field, but Cincinnati responded with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the first inning to take a 2-1 lead.
The Knights would respond in the very next frame to regain the lead. Alex Freeland and Nick Romano worked two out walks, then Andrew Brait plated Freeland on an RBI single. Gephry Pena scored Romano and Brait with an RBI double which gave UCF a 4-2 lead.
After both teams went quiet for the next two innings, Cincinnati plated five runs on two singles and three walks in the fourth. The Bearcats added another in the seventh with a solo home run by Paul Komistek.
The Black and Gold wouldn't go down without a fight though, Crouch added his second RBI of the day with a ground rule double to make it an 8-5 game. After an RBI groundout, Pablo Ruiz plated another run on a single that brought Crouch home to make it an 8-7 game.
Freeland then stepped to the plate and ripped a single to tie the ball game at eight apiece. Nick Romano then hit a single that gave the Knights the lead. They scored another on a wild pitch making it a 10-8 ball game.
With two runners on, Jordan Rathbone hit an absolute moonshot of a home run giving the Knights a 13-8 lead.
Cincinnati climbed back into the game when Komistek hit a two-run homer to cut UCF's lead to 13-10, his second of the day. Freeland pulled a run back when he laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Ruiz making it 14-10.
No. 5 UCF (29-28) – 14, No. 4 Cincinnati (29-25) – 10
Winning Pitcher: Zack Bennett (2-2)
Losing Pitcher: Dean McCarthy (4-4)
Top Pitcher: Zack Bennett (2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 K)
Top Hitter: Jordan Rathbone (3-5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) , Josh Crouch (2-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 2B), Gephry Pena (2-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB)
- The Knights opening round victory over Cincinnati is UCF's first opening round win since 2014, the first American Athletic Conference Championship.
- The nine run eighth inning is UCF's highest scoring inning since 2017.
- Rathbone's three-run home run was his 15th of the season which leads the team.
- Eight of the 11 Knights who had a plate appearance had at least one RBI, and eight of the 11 Knights scored at least one run.
The Knights will now face Memphis at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla. in the next round of the American Athletic Conference Championship on Thursday at 3 p.m.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP CAN BE FOUND HERE
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