April 25, 2008
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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - An electric crowd at Jay Bergman Field was treated to an all-around performance from the UCF baseball team in a 4-2 upset of No. 4 Rice Friday. The Knight victory marked the second win against a top-five team this year, and it was the highest-ranked opponent UCF (27-16, 5-11) had defeated since a 6-5 triumph over No. 2 LSU at home on Feb. 15, 2004.
Friday's attendance of 1,309 vs. Rice (32-11, 13-3) was the 13th largest crowd in Knight history, and it helped set a UCF single-season attendance record as 30,965 have ventured through the gates of Jay Bergman Field.
Making his first start since April 11, junior Kyle Sweat went 7.1 innings with five strikeouts while giving up only two runs on five hits. It was his second longest start of the season, as he improved to 5-2 in 2008. Junior Justin Weiss tossed a scoreless ninth to notch his sixth save.
"The first inning I came out with a lot of adrenaline pumping and I was leaving the ball up," said Sweat. "Other than that I was just trying to stay down in the strike zone and locate my pitches. And (catcher) Brandon Romans did a heck of a job. I think this is the highlight of the season for me, beating the No. 4 team in Rice, and we came in 0-7 against them (since joining C-USA in 2006)."
Playing in his first home game of the season after missing the first 40 contests with an injury, junior Kiko Vazquez crushed home run No. 1 of 2008 on the first pitch he saw in the second inning. The first baseman finished the evening a triple short of hitting for the cycle, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Meanwhile, junior Colin Arnold stretched his hitting streak to 10 games with two hits, and senior Tyson Auer was 2-for-3 with a double to extend his streak to a season-high nine outings.
Rice started off strong, loading the bases with nobody out in the first inning against Sweat. The righty buckled down, earning the first out with a shifty behind-the-back play, knocking down a grounder by Aaron Luna and throwing home for the force, then surrendering a sacrifice fly to Adam Zornes. But that was the only run the Owls could tally, as Rick Hague went down swinging to complete the inning.
Sweat found himself in trouble again in the second, and this time the defense behind him bailed him out of the frame. Facing runners at first and second and one down, Jared Gayhart lined a potential extra-base hit to the right-center gap. Auer, who was playing left of center, raced over, laid out and made a diving snag. Not satisfied with just making one of UCF's greatest plays of the season, Auer jumped up and relayed the ball to the infield, where shortstop Eric Kallstrom turned and fired to first to double up Doug Simmons.
With the crowd still buzzing from the inning-ending double play, Vazquez strode to the plate in the bottom half and immediately sent the first pitch from Ryan Berry over the left-field wall to tie it up at 1-1. Rice had an answer when Diego Seastrunk blasted a solo homer in the third to retake the lead, 2-1. Attempting to even the score again, Vazquez led off the fourth with a double down the right-field line and sophomore Chris Duffy singled up the middle to place runners at the corners. Two batters later, a groundout from Auer permitted Vazquez to score.
Sweat and Berry made quick work of the middle innings, and at one point Sweat faced a minimum 15 batters from the third to the eighth innings, giving up just a base hit but Seastrunk was later caught stealing in the sixth. With the score still knotted at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Kallstrom started back up the offense with an infield single and Auer banged a 1-2 offering down the line in left to get runners in scoring position with nobody out. Romans did his job vs. Berry, grounding out to the right side to allow Kallstrom to score the go-ahead run. Auer capped off the scoring by touching home on a wild pitch to bring it to 4-2.
Rice finally put a pair of runners on in the eighth, earning a one-out walk from Sweat and another by reliever Cody Allen. Junior Matt Manning became the third pitcher of the inning and promptly struck out Seastrunk and Luna to enable UCF to keep a 4-2 cushion.
That was all the Knights would need, as Weiss shut the door in the ninth to earn the save.
Game two against the Owls is set for Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Jay Bergman Field.
UCF baseball single-game tickets are currently available by contacting the UCF Ticket Office at 407-823-1000, or by going online at www.ucfathletics.com, the official site for UCF varsity sports. Also check out UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.
No. 4 Rice - 32-11 Overall, 13-3 Conference USA
UCF - 27-16 Overall, 5-11 Conference USA
WP: Kyle Sweat (5-2), 7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
LP: Ryan Berry (5-3), 7.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
SV: Justin Weiss (6), 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
- Friday night's game marked the first for UCF's new video board.
- Along with defeating No. 4 Rice, UCF also edged No. 5 Missouri, 10-9, Feb. 25 earlier this season.
- Rice entered with a nine-game winning streak against the Knights.
- Kyle Mills made his third start of the year at third base.
- Catcher Robert Lara sat out due to mononucleosis.
- Tyson Auer swiped his 16th base of 2008 and his 75th of his career. One more will move him into a tie for third on UCF's all-time list.
- Colin Arnold's 10-game hitting streak marks the second time he has posted a streak of at least 10 games this year (14 games Feb. 22-March 12).
- Dating back to last year, Kiko Vazquez's hitting streak extended to six games.
- Kyle Sweat needed just four pitches to get three outs in the fifth inning, marking the shortest inning of the year for any UCF pitcher. He then used only seven pitches to get through the seventh inning.
- Shane Brown served as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. The sophomore missed the last 10 games due to an injury.