ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - In front of a packed house on Military Appreciation Night, the seventh-ranked UCF baseball team earned its seventh-straight win, 4-3 over Memphis. The Knights donned black-and-gold camouflage uniforms and honored military personnel throughout the game.
Sophomore Ben Lively, making his second-straight Friday night start, earned his team-leading seventh win after silencing the Memphis bats for six innings. He allowed three hits and two walks, and he struck out three. In his last 24 2/3 innings, Lively has only surrendered one run while striking out 22 batters.
Catcher Ryan Breen paced the Knights' offense with a 2-for-4 performance that included clutch two-out RBI in the third and seventh innings.
"I thought it was a great night," UCF head coach Terry Rooney said. "I thought we had a great turnout with Military Appreciation Night. I hope that if we had anyone who was here for the first time that they decide to come back."
The Knights (35-8, 13-3 Conference USA) and Tigers (18-24, 6-10) will play game two of the series at 4 p.m. Saturday.
UCF now leads Rice by 1 ½ games in the Conference USA standings. The Black and Gold's No. 7 ranking in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll is tied for the highest ranking in the program's history.
UCF scored the game's first run on a wild pitch in the second inning with the bases loaded. In the bottom of the third, the Knights made Memphis starter Daniel Langfield pay for a two-out walk to Alex Friedrich. The senior right fielder promptly stole second and scored on a Breen single into shallow right field to make it 2-0.
After Lively got Memphis' top slugger, Eli Hynes, to line out to Ronnie Richardson in center, the Knights responded in the bottom half of the sixth with their third run. Friedrich led off the inning with a two-strike single through the middle and stole his second of three bases on the night. He scored on a Jeramy Matos double down the left-field line.
UCF added an important insurance run in the bottom of the seventh with more clutch two-out hitting by Breen. The Palm City native plated Friedrich for the second time in the game on a single through the left side. Breen now has 24 RBI on the season.
Memphis wouldn't go away quietly. In the eighth inning, the Tigers scored just the second and third earned runs given up by UCF reliever Roman Madrid in 31 1/3 innings this year. Lefty Joe Rogers relieved his teammate with one out, and the Tigers added an unearned run before Rogers struck out Derrick Thomas to end the threat.
Rogers' ninth save of 2012, and the 26th of his career, was an exciting one, as he stranded Memphis' Ethan Gross on third base when he struck out pinch-hitter Tucker Tubbs to end the game.
News & Notes:
-U.S Army Sgt. Noe Santos, who was wounded in Iraq in 2005, threw out the first pitch on Friday and was greeted by a standing ovation and a handshake from each member of the team.
- UCF women's soccer assistant coach Josh Walters, who spent one year in Afghanistan as a first lieutenant in the Florida National Guard, was also recognized during the game.
-The crowd of 1,867 was tied for the 13th largest in school history.
-Friedrich stole his 13th, 14th and 15th bases in the game.
-UCF is now 11-5 in one-run games this year.