JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) – The last two Sundays for the UCF baseball team have had no shortage of late-inning drama as senior Chris Taladay came through in the clutch with a two-out, two-run double in the top of the ninth to give the Knights a 6-4 victory at John Sessions Stadium. Sunday’s weekend-clinching win was the first road triumph of the season for UCF.
Redshirt senior LHP Chris Matulis pitched six effective innings in his first start of the season, while rookie RHP Zac Favre shined in his three innings of relief to earn his first win as a Knight. Seniors Taladay (2-for-5, 3 RBI) and Erik Hempe (2-for-3, 2 BB) smacked four of the Knights’ seven hits on the day.
“Today was a great game. Great performances by Matulis, Favre and Hempe hit the ball well,” said Taladay, who extended his hit streak to nine games. “It was a good game all-around. That was huge to get the first road win. We needed that bad, and we’ve been talking about turning this thing around and that is one thing we needed to do is get that win and we did.”
The Knights return home for a pair of midweek games with Florida A&M on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by a four-game series with Columbia that begins on Friday.
For the first time since March 2, the Knights would strike first in a game when a JU error on a James Vasquez fly ball to right field put him in scoring position for Taladay, who smacked a 2-0 pitch through the right side give UCF a 1-0 lead.
The advantage would not last long, however, as Jacksonville struck for three hits after Matulis had set down the first 10 batters of the game. The 6-foot-5 lefty would limit the damage with a grounder to Johnston to end the fourth.
After a fifth-inning sacrifice fly by Vasquez tied the game at 2-all, senior second baseman Austin Johnston (1-for-5) smashed a solo home run to lead off the sixth, while junior Parker Webster (1-for-4) came around to score on two wild pitches and a passed ball to make it 4-2. It was the first long ball for Johnston since April 12, 2010 against Rice.
JU would take advantage of a pair of two-out walks in the bottom-half of the frame as Kris Molter singled to right-center to tie the game at 4-all.
In the seventh, Favre would enter the ballgame firing strikes. The Jacksonville native, who was playing in front of family and friends, tossed just nine pitches in the frame and then used a nifty pick-off move with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to keep the game knotted up.
Coming into the contest hitting .360 with runners in scoring position, Taladay didn’t disappoint again at the dish. After JoMarcos Woods (1-for-5) doubled over the left-fielder’s head with one out, and Erik Hempe took an intentional walk with two outs, the senior third baseman made his presence felt in the clutch. In a lefty-lefty matchup, Taladay ripped the 1-0 pitch just inside first base down the line for a double to score the game-winning runs.
“He threw me a breaking ball first pitch up, and from seeing that I didn’t see anything I couldn’t hit,” Taladay added about the lefty-lefty matchup. “His fastball is what I ended up sitting on and I barreled it up.”
Favre would have no problem closing out the contest, retiring the Dolphins in order with a strikeout swinging, a foul-fly to catcher Dale Irving who was making his first-career start and a grounder to Taladay.
Season tickets can be purchased by calling 407-UCF-1000 or visit the baseball tickets page. Stay up-to-date on all the latest news by visiting UCFAthletics.com and following the team on Twitter (@UCF_Baseball) and Facebook.