Baseball Drops NCAA Regional Saturday Contest to No. 8 Florida State, 5-2

by James Warnick

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State starter Jamie Arnold struck out 12 batters over seven innings of work to lead the No. 8 nationally seeded Seminoles to a 5-2 victory over UCF on day two at the NCAA Tallahassee Regional on Saturday night at Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium.

The third-seeded Knights (36-20) will now head to an elimination game on Sunday at noon against the fourth-seeded Stetson Hatters (41-21). The winner of Sunday’s game will advance to the regional championship against FSU (44-15), while the loser will head home.

“That was a good college baseball game. Jamie Arnold is the best pitcher that we’ve seen all year. His stuff was great, and he pitched very well,” head UCF coach Rich Wallace said. “They (FSU) took some big swings in some key moments and capitalized. We just came up short.”

Scoreless in the third, the host and top-seeded Seminoles managed to strike first with a pair of runs to jump out to a 2-0 advantage. Following back-to-back hits and a strikeout, Marco Dinges started the scoring with an RBI infield single to make it 1-0. After a fielder’s choice for the second out, FSU then then picked up another run on an RBI infield single from Daniel Cantu. Later with the bases loaded and two away, UCF starter Ben Vespi limited the damage by leaving the bases full with an inning-ending strikeout of his former teammate Drew Faurot.

With a runner aboard and one out in the fourth, Florida State’s Cam Smith snuck a ball over the short porch in right for a two-run homer to make it 4-0. The Seminoles later added a run on a two-out RBI double from Jaime Ferrer to extend their lead to 5-0.

After Lex Boedicker was hit by a pitch with one away in the bottom of the fourth, the senior Jack Zyska drove him in with an RBI double down the leftfield line to put the Knights on the board and make it 5-1.

With FSU looking for more in the fifth following a one-out double, UCF reliever Spencer Bauer made a nice play on a comebacker and cut down the lead runner heading for third thanks to a stellar tag from Braden Calise for the second out. Bauer then struck out Max Williams for the third out to keep it a four-run game.

Fellow UCF reliever Kyle Kramer came on and tossed a pair of scoreless frames, which included a three-up-three-down seventh, to keep it a 5-1 score.

The Knights looked to get something going in the bottom of the seventh, as they loaded the bases with nobody out following a walk from Danny Neri, a single from Calise, and Andrew Sundean getting hit by a pitch. But UCF managed to plate just one run in the frame, as Neri came in to score on a double play ball to make it a 5-2.

The Seminoles got two runners into scoring position with two outs in the eighth, but UCF reliever Chase Centala struck out Dinges for the third out to keep it a three-run deficit.

With FSU having gone to the bullpen, Brennen Oxford managed to retire the Black and Gold in order in the eighth and pitched around a two-out walk in the ninth to end the ballgame.

Over 6.0 innings of work, the UCF bullpen struck out nine batters on the night. Kramer led the way with four punchouts, while Bauer had three, and each Centala and Najer Victor had one. The four Knight seniors combined to allow just two runs on five hits over the final six innings.

All-ACC First Team honoree Arnold earned the win on the mound to move to 11-3 on the season after surrendering just two runs on three hits while striking out 12 over 7.0 innings. UCF’s Vespi was tagged with the loss to fall to 4-4.

The senior Zyska led the Knights offensively by going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, while Brait and Calise each went 1-for-3 with a walk. All-ACC Second Team selection Smith led FSU by going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, two runs driven in, and a home run.

The contest marked UCF’s second of the 2024 NCAA Tallahassee Regional, as it previously defeated the second-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide, 8-7, on Friday night.

The third-seeded Knights will now head to an elimination game on Sunday at noon against the fourth-seeded Hatters. The winner of Sunday’s first game will advance to the Tallahassee Regional championship against the No. 8 national seed Seminoles on Sunday at 6 p.m.