Feb. 25, 2011
UCF vs. South Alabama
Feb. 25, 2011
|From Mobile, Ala.
WP: Cicio (1-0), 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
LP: Wirnsberger (0-1), 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
UCF just tied it up at 4-4 in the sixth, and South Alabama came up in the home half vs. Nick Cicio where it loaded the bases on a double and a pair of two-out walks. But the lefty settled own and got Brent Tanner to pop up in foul territory to keep the game tied. That led to a three-run seventh for UCF as it was on its way to the win.
First Star: UCF LHP Nick Cicio - WP, 3.0 IP 0 R, 5 K
Second Star: UCF CF Ronnie Richardson - 3-for-5, 2 RBI, 2 R, 3B
Third Star: UCF C Beau Taylor, 1-for-5, R, ties UCF hitting streak record at 26 games
Saturday Preview in PDF Format
By Brian Ormiston
Box Score in PDF Format
Mobile, Ala. (UCFAthletics.com) - Junior catcher Beau Taylor (Rockledge, Fla.) tied a UCF record with a hit in his 26th-straight game to lift UCF to a 9-4 win over South Alabama in the South Alabama Classic Friday. The Knights (5-0) broke a 4-4 tie with three two-out runs in the seventh against the Jaguars (4-1), highlighted by a two-run double off the bat of D.J. Hicks (Altamonte Springs, Fla.).
"These guys really competed tonight. They absolutely competed for nine innings," said head coach Terry Rooney. "I wanted this kind of game so they could see that it's not easy winning college baseball games. And we came from behind to win in an outstanding tournament. But the story of the night is that we competed.
"Beau Taylor has definitely continued to get better and better every single year. And although he has a 26-game hitting streak which is an outstanding feat, what I'm really proud of him for is that he continues to grow and be a great leader behind the plate for us. That was his challenge in the offseason and he certainly took that to heart."
For a moment it looked like Taylor's streak would not continue as he lined a possible extra-base hit to right but it landed just foul beyond first base in the sixth. Taylor hung in there and on the next pitch sent a shot to shortstop Jerry Roam who went to his right and was able to knock it down but could not make a play. The infield single solidified Taylor of matching Mike Myers' 2001 record.
"The streak has meant a lot to me because I wanted the 21-game streak last year to carry over into this season," said Taylor. "But I would like to beat it. Tying is like kissing your sister."
While the three-run seventh may have been the deciding factor, South Alabama left the bases loaded in the fourth, sixth and ninth innings to enable the Knights to stay close early and hang on late.
Reliever Nick Cicio (1-0) picked up the win with 3.0 scoreless innings and five strikeouts. Through five games, the UCF bullpen has not allowed a single run, including Cicio who has tossed 6.0 innings with 10 strikeouts in relief.
UCF starting pitcher Danny Winkler worked into trouble in the bottom of the first on a walk, base hit and wild pitch but was able to strand runners at second and third by getting Nolan Early to fly out to left. Conversely, USA righty Garrett Harris threw nothing but strikes for the first two innings and gave up just one hit through three.
Winkler buckled down again in the third to keep the game scoreless. With Jordan Patterson at first, one out and a 3-2 count, Patterson took off. Winkler struck out Jeff DeBlieux looking and Taylor fired a rocket to second to get the inning-ending double play.
When the Knights returned to the plate in the fourth, they put the first two aboard when Ronnie Richardson was plunked and Darnell Sweeney took a walk. A fly out to center pushed Richardson to third, setting up Jonathan Griffin who sent a two-strike pitch to right-center for a sacrifice fly.
After scoring a run without the benefit of a hit in the fourth, UCF witnessed South Alabama strike right back with a pair of runs only it could have been much worse as the Jaguars left the bases loaded vs. Winkler.
That proved to be a big moment as the Knights dug into the box in the fifth and Derek Luciano led off with a double. Even though Harris retired the next two and got to 2-2 on Richardson, the switch-hitting center fielder found the hole between first and second for a base hit. Luciano raced around third and barely beat the throw from Early in right to tie it at 2-2.
In the home half, though, the Jaguars forced UCF to go to the pen. Designated hitter D.J. Hicks jumped in and inherited two runners yet surrendered a base hit and wild pitch to allow both of them to score.
Trailing 4-2, Taylor got the sixth going with his infield single and Griffin followed suit with a base hit to center. Harris was then replaced by southpaw Phillip Byrd, and a groundout by Hicks pushed the runners into scoring position. Ryan Breen was able to cut the deficit in half with a sac fly to deep right, and later with runners at the corners, Chris Taladay came on as a pinch-hitter. Although he missed the first four games of 2011 with an injury, the 2010 Conference USA Freshman of the Year cranked the first pitch he saw to left for a two-out RBI single and a 4-4 ballgame.
Once again the Jaguars were looking to respond in their half. Filling the bases with two outs, Cicio induced cleanup hitter Brent Tanner to pop up to Luciano at third in foul territory to end the threat.
"I kind of worked myself into a jam and I knew I couldn't allow a run to score," said Cicio. "We were in a pivotal point in the game because we just tied it up, and we needed to start taking control of the game. So I took a deep breath, and went after the last hitter to get the final out."
By keeping South Alabama from scoring, the offense went to work in the seventh to take the biggest lead of the evening. With Sweeney at first and two outs, Griffin kept the inning going with a hard single to left, setting up Hicks, who hammered a two-run double to the right-center gap. And thanks to some miscommunication on a pop up by Breen on the infield, Hicks scored when the ball landed between first baseman Brad Hook and second baseman Logan Kirkland.
Closing the door on the victory in the eighth, Richardson delivered with his second triple of the year, and Sweeney brought him around on a single up the middle to stretch the advantage to 8-4. Even though the Black and Gold left the bases juiced in the inning, Richardson returned in the ninth to drive in Luciano with two outs for UCF's five-run cushion.
That ended up being an important run as USA loaded the bags with one out in the bottom of the ninth against Joe Rogers. With things getting interesting and the tying run in the on-deck circle, Rogers calmed down to get Hook to strike out looking at a breaking ball, then needed five pitches to sit Brent Mitchell down on strikes.
The South Alabama Classic continues Saturday when the Knights take on Southeastern Louisiana at 5:30 p.m. ET. UCF also will face Alabama Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.
UCF - 5-0 Overall
South Alabama - 4-1 Overall
-Ronnie Richardson led UCF's offense by going 3-for-5 with a triple, two RBI and two runs, and Derek Luciano went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
-UCF has won 19-straight non-conference games dating back to last season.
-Friday marked the end of UCF's string of eight-consecutive games of scoring 10 runs or more.
-UCF finished with 12 hits, which was the 17th-straight game it connected for 10 hits or more.
-The Knights did not commit an error for the third time this year.
-This weekend is the first time since 2001 that UCF is participating in a regular-season tournament.
-All three of UCF's top catchers were in the field at the same time Friday. Regular starter Beau Taylor was behind the plate, Ryan Breen has taken over left field and when Chris Taladay came in as a pinch-hitter in the sixth, Taladay went to left and Breen moved over to right.
-Head coach Terry Rooney announced that junior righty Ray Hanson will make the start on the mound against SLU Saturday.