UCF, Graham Collect 8-4 Game-One Win Against Houston

GO KNIGHTS Beau Taylor banged out three hits and threw out a runner on the bases Thursday night.
Beau Taylor banged out three hits and threw out a runner on the bases Thursday night.

May 14, 2009

Final Stats

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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Giving UCF another quality Conference USA start, senior Caleb Graham tossed a career-high 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts in an 8-4 home victory over Houston Thursday evening. The crucial win for the Knights (21-32 overall) stretched their league record to 8-14 and enabled them to remain in position to make the conference tournament as they jumped ahead of Memphis in the league standings.

"Tonight was a night that we needed to win," said Graham, who was making his final start at home in a Black and Gold uniform. "I thought about it (being my last start) before the game and I wanted to go out with a bang. Our coaches always tell us to finish strong so at the end here I'm just trying to be at my best."

Graham's outing was his fourth-consecutive series-opening start of at least 6.0 innings, and the 11-straight start that a UCF pitcher went at least 5.0 innings in a C-USA contest. The righty, who is the reigning C-USA Pitcher of the Week, moved to 4-2 on the year by matching a personal-best with eight strikeouts, walking one and surrendering three runs on seven hits.

"Another unbelievable outing by Caleb, but it's not that unbelievable anymore because he's continued to do it," said head coach Terry Rooney. "He has continued to work hard throughout the entire season. He went out there on fumes in that last inning. I wanted him to get that last out so bad."

UCF connected for at least 10 hits for the fifth time in its last six games, outhitting the Cougars 11-8. Freshman Beau Taylor amassed three hits for the seventh time this season, while senior Kiko Vazquez was a perfect 2-for-2 with two walks and a double.

It was a quick start for the UCF offense against righty Jared Ray, and it all got underway on a double to right-center from senior Colin Arnold. Following a free pass issued to senior Eric Kallstrom, classmate Brandon Romans lined a RBI single into center with runners at first and third.

The base hits kept coming when Taylor jumped on a 1-0 offering for a single into center as well, driving in Kallstrom and Romans also scored on a throwing error from the outfield. Making it 4-0, Vazquez brought in Taylor with yet another base hit to center.

Graham cruised through the first three frames, not allowing a hit until a leadoff double in the fourth gave Houston some life and the Cougars would eventually score one in the inning. Vazquez answered that run in the home half, posting a leadoff double of his own, reaching third on a one-out error and scoring by way of a wild pitch. The Black and Gold pushed it to 6-1 by adding an unearned run when Chris Wright stepped on the mound.

A Chris Duffy RBI single down the left-field line provided UCF with its seventh run in the seventh inning, but Houston continued to plug away, lighting up the board for two runs in the eighth. The Cougars' momentum would be short lived, however, when the Black and Gold dug in for the last time, plating an unearned run on a Taylor RBI single to ultimately seal the important win.

There are now two games left of the regular season as UCF and Houston meet up for the second contest of their series Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Knights are a half game ahead of Memphis for the eighth and final postseason spot.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.

Game Notes
Houston - 24-28 Overall, 12-10 Conference USA
UCF - 21-32 Overall, 8-14 Conference USA
WP: Caleb Graham (4-2), 7.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
LP: Jared Ray (4-3), 3.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K
- Freshman catcher Beau Taylor threw out his 21st runner on the year when he removed Caleb Ramsey in the eighth inning. Taylor's 21 runners caught stealing continues to lead all C-USA backstops.
- Thursday's win marked the first time UCF defeated Houston in a Conference USA regular-season game.
- Colin Arnold and Brandon Romans also had two hits for the Knights' bats.
- Kyle Sweat entered in a non-save situation to finish the final 1.1 innings.
- Houston committed four errors while UCF's defense was flawless in the field.
- Caleb Graham finished his outing with 113 pitches, 78 for strikes.