Ranked Knights Welcome Kansas State for Weekend Series

by James Warnick

ORLANDO – Having won three straight conference series and six of its last seven games, the No. 20 UCF baseball team will welcome Kansas State to town this weekend for a three-game Big 12 Conference series.

The series will run Friday to Sunday at John Euliano Park. Friday and Saturday’s contests are set for 6 p.m. while Sunday’s finale will begin at 1 p.m. All three games will air live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Saturday and Sunday’s games will also be on the radio on 96.9 The Game and live stats will be available for all three contests by visiting

The Black and Gold entered the national rankings this week for the first time since February of 2021. UCF’s currently ranked 20th by Perfect Game and 25th by D1Baseball. The Knights are also receiving votes for both the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and NCBWA polls. UCF currently holds a 19-7 overall record and a 6-6 Big 12 Conference clip.

The Black and Gold took two of three from Texas Tech at home last weekend to claim their third consecutive Big 12 series. UCF followed that up with a 14-1 midweek victory at Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday to improve to a perfect 7-0 in midweek contests and 9-1 against in-state opponents on the year.

In Tuesday’s victory at Jackie Robinson Ballpark over B-CU, the Black and Gold tallied 16 hits and scored 14 runs while the pitching staff limited the Wildcats to just one run on the night to cruise to victory. Six Knights posted multiple hits on the evening. Andrew Brait led the way by going 3-for-6 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored, while Andrew Estrella and Lex Boedicker each drove in a game-high three runs. Matt Prevesk, Braden Calise, Mikey Kluska, and Anthony Calabro all recorded two hits apiece for UCF on the night.

The reigning Big 12 Conference Co-Newcomer of the Week Cade Boxrucker had another good start for UCF to improve to 3-1 on the season. Boxrucker struck out four and surrendered just one run on three hits. A week removed from being one-out away from a no-hitter at Jacksonville on March 26, he did not allow a hit until the fifth inning against B-CU.

A trio of relievers—Spencer Bauer, Kris Sosnowski and Najer Victor—pitched well in relief as they combined for 4.2 scoreless innings in the contest. Bauer went a season-long 2.1 innings and gave up just two hits while striking out two, while Sosnowski followed with a perfect third of an inning. The senior Victor then tossed the final two innings and gave up just one hit while fanning two.

The offense scored multiple runs in four frames in the ballgame, as they scored three in the first, four in the fourth, two in the seventh, and four in the eighth. UCF capped the scoring in the ballgame with a single run in the ninth.

Over the Knights’ last four games—Tuesday’s win over Bethune-Cookman and three games against Texas Tech last weekend—Prevesk has led the way with a .389 average, one homer, one double, three RBIs and six runs scored. The senior Zyska is next with a .267 clip, two extra-base knocks, two runs scored and three RBIs. In two games played during the stretch, Estrella went 3-for-5 at the plate with a homer, a double, three runs scored and four runs batted in. On the mound, Dom Stagliano led the starting rotation over the last four games with a 1-0 record, 1.42 ERA and five strikeouts over 6.1 innings. The senior Bauer, closer Chase Centala, Kyle Kramer, Sosnowski, and Victor all didn’t allow a run over 13.0 combined innings of relief work.

On the season, junior outfielder Prevesk paces the Knights with a .380 batting average and a .998 OPS. He also has a team-best seven doubles and 23 runs scored, as well as three homers, a triple and 20 RBIs. Senior outfielder Zyska is next with a .312 average, four homers, six doubles, 22 runs scored, 17 RBIs, and a team-leading 17 walks. Andrew Sundean fronts the squad in runs batted in with 25 while Estrella leads the way in home runs with six. The right-hander Stagliano fronts the starting rotation with a 3.14 ERA and a 1-1 record. Ben Vespi paces the squad in strikeouts and innings pitched with 27 punchouts over 32.0 innings of work. The closer Centala will enter the series ranked fourth nationally and tops in the Big 12 Conference in saves with six.

About Kansas State

K-State will come to town with a 19-8 overall record and currently tied for second in the Big 12 standings with a 6-3 league mark. In three league series, the Wildcats have swept Houston, taken two of three from Cincinnati, and most recently won one of three over Texas at home last weekend. Despite dropping the series to UT last weekend, K-State has won 11 of its last 13 ballgames. The Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 23 in the March 25 national rankings, and as of this week are currently receiving votes for the top 25 in both the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and NCBWA polls. K-State was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 this season after tying for fourth last year with a 13-11 conference mark and a 35-24 overall record.

Brady Day leads the Wildcats with a slash line of .404/.519/.670. He also leads the way in OPS (1.189) and RBIs (36), and holds six home runs, nine doubles and 31 runs scored. Chuck Ingram is next with a .349 average and tied for the team lead in homers with seven, while preseason All-Big 12 selection Kaelen Culpepper is batting .345 with a team-best 17 extra-base hits. As a team, K-State holds the best team batting average in the Big 12 with a .316 clip. On the mound, Owen Boerema leads the starting rotation with a 2-2 record and a 5.48 ERA in 38.1 innings pitched. Reliever Jackson Wentworth fronts the bullpen with a 1-1 record, 2.62 ERA, five saves, and a team-best 51 strikeouts over 34.1 innings.

Kansas State is led by head coach Pete Hughes who is in his sixth season in Manhattan. Hughes holds a 152-124 record at KSU and a 752-586-3 career Division I coaching record, as he previously held head coaching stops at Boston College (1999-06), Virginia Tech (2007-13), and Oklahoma (2014-17).

All-Time Series History

Friday’s opener will mark the first all-time meeting on the diamond between the Knights and Wildcats.

Welcome to the Top 25

UCF has entered the national rankings this week, as it holds a 19-7 overall record and a 6-6 Big 12 Conference clip. The Knights are ranked as high as No. 20 by Perfect Game and No. 25 by D1Baseball. The Black and Gold are also receiving votes for both the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and NCBWA polls. The last time the Knights were ranked was to start the 2021 season. UCF opened the 2021 campaign ranked No. 24 in the Baseball America 2021 preseason poll and No. 28 in the NCBWA preseason poll.

Boxrucker Tabbed Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Week

Senior RHP Cade Boxrucker was one out away from a no-hitter on March 26, allowing just one hit through 8.2 innings against Jacksonville en route to earning Big 12 weekly honors. The West Chester, Ohio native allowed just five batters to reach base and struck out four Dolphins. Boxrucker was the winning pitcher in the 6-0 UCF shutout victory, as he faced the minimum in the second, fourth, fifth and eighth innings. The integrative general studies major is the first UCF player to win a Big 12 baseball weekly award.

Knights 9-1 vs. Sunshine State Foes, Undefeated in Midweek Action

UCF is off to a 9-1 start against in-state foes in 2024 thanks to road wins over No. 4 Florida, Miami, Florida Atlantic, Jacksonville, and Bethune-Cookman as well as home midweek wins over Stetson and FAU and taking two of three at home from South Florida. The Knights are also a perfect 7-0 in midweek contests and have outscored midweek foes by an impressive tally of 57 to 22 on the year.

On Deck

After having played six of their last seven games at home, the Knights will hit the road next week for four away contests. UCF will first head to DeLand for a Wednesday midweek at Stetson, before closing the week with a three-game league series at West Virginia next Friday Sunday.