ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF baseball team used solid pitching and timely hitting to sweep a doubleheader,and the series, from LIU Brooklyn Saturday from the UCF baseball complex. The No. 21 Knights (3-0) topped the Blackbirds (0-3), 9-1, in each contest as the squad collectively hit .347, coaxed 33 walks and did not commit an error for the series.
Head coach Terry Rooney challenged his team to play more fundamentally sound on Saturday and they did just that.
"I'm very proud of the effort of our guys," Rooney said. "We talk about it every time that we are going to be better in March than February and we are going to be better in June than we are in May. That was the challenge yesterday. Fundamentally we did not play a very good game of baseball yesterday. There were a lot of great individual efforts, but as a team, we played better today.
"Winning college baseball games is not easy. Anytime you put yourself in a position to win a series, and potentially sweep a series, it is a great weekend."
Preseason Conference USA Player of the Year D.J. Hicks (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) ended the weekend batting .538 with seven RBI and his back-to-back two-strike homers in game two Saturday gave him his fourth-career two-dinger game.
Next up for the Knights is a trip to Gainesville Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against the No. 1 Gators. The game will be televised live on Fox Sports Florida.
Game 1 Recap
Game one was an impressive showing by the underclassmen on the UCF pitching staff. Sophomore Ben Lively (Gulf Breeze, Fla.) turned in a solid afternoon on the mound going five innings, surrendering only three hits, one run while striking out four.
Rookie relievers Eric Skoglund (Sarasota, Fla.) and Garrett Nuss (Sorrento, Fla.) followed suit by shutting down the Blackbirds over the last four innings to preserve the win for Lively, the sixth of his career.
Junior Darnell Sweeney (Miramar, Fla.) got the offense started Saturday after he connected on the first pitch of the afternoon, sending the ball to deep right and out of reach of LIU's Mike Garcia for a triple. Ronnie Richardson (Eagle Lake, Fla.) stepped up to the plate and sent the first pitch to right for a sacrifice fly to bring Sweeney home.
UCF took advantage of a second-straight inning with the bases juiced, plating four runs total on five hits in the bottom of the second.
Senior Travis Shreve (Auburn, Wash.) brought in the first run of the frame with a shot up the middle to bring home fellow senior Alex Friedrich (Orlando, Fla.) after he led the inning off with a double. After a Richardson fielder's choice brought home rookie James Vasquez (Palm City, Fla.), Hicks stepped up to the plate and sent a two-strike pitch the opposite way into left for a two-run double.
Shreve plated his second run of the afternoon with a bloop single to right, bringing a hustling Friedrich all the way home from second base.
Hicks added to his RBI total in the fourth after sending a shot up the middle to bring home the speedy Richardson from second.
Friedrich continued his punishment of the ball in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff triple, the second of his career and first since 2010, to the power ally in left center. He'd come around to score on a Vasquez double over the head of left fielder Julian Castro.
Skoglund and Nuss both made impressive collegiate debuts in relief of Lively. Skoglund, a 6-foot-7 lefty, surrendered only one hit and struck out three while pitching both the sixth and seventh frame. Nuss followed his teammate's lead, stifling the Blackbirds to the tune of no hits allowed and three punch-outs.
After hitting 14 home runs in 2011, Hicks stepped up to the plate in the first inning and grooved a Brad Reimer two-strike pitch off of the video board in right for his first of the year.
UCF continued its hot hitting in the second inning of the series, tagging LIU starter Brad Reimer for five earned runs and knocking him out of the game. Overall, the Knights totaled 12 RBI in the second frame for the series.
Friedrich got the party started with a single up the middle to bring home Carrillo who walked to start the frame. A JoMarcos Wood's (Orlando, Fla.) single gave way to a Shreve double over left fielder Castro's head to bring home Friedrich and Woods. The senior second baseman would score on a Reimer wild pitch and see Hicks step up to the plate and smack his second two-strike homer of the evening.
UCF added another run in the fourth with a Hicks sacrifice fly to push his weekend total up to seven. Shreve added his third RBI of game on a single to right and Richardson walked to bring home Friedrich for his seventh RBI of the three-game set.
Redshirt junior Chris Matulis (Boynton Beach, Fla.) earned his first collegiate victory in nearly two years after going six innings while allowing four hits, one run and striking out five in his UCF debut. Senior Matt Collins (DeLand, Fla.) tossed two hitless innings, and junior college transfer Jimmy Reed (Spokane, Wash.) preserved the sweep in his UCF debut.