PEARL, Miss. (UCFAthletics.com) - After a tough opening-round loss in the Conference USA Championship to UAB on Thursday, the No. 16 UCF baseball team bounced back with an 11-1 throttling of East Carolina at Trustmark Park in an eight-inning run-ruled affair.
The Knights (42-15) busted out for 14 hits, including 10 through the fourth inning and seven of the extra base variety against the Pirates (34-22-1). Chris Taladay punished ECU pitchers all game with a three-hit, five RBI day, including his fifth homer and first triple of the year.
Starter Ben Lively notched his ninth win of the season and became the first Knight to reach the nine-win plateau since Tim Bascom won 10 contests in 2005. The Gulf Breeze native pitched in and out of trouble for six innings of six-hit ball, stranding seven Pirates on the base paths while turning a pair of 1-6-3 double plays.
"Our guys played exceptionally well today, especially bouncing back after yesterday's tough loss," UCF head coach Terry Rooney said. "I thought Ben Lively competed today and kept the ball consistently down in the zone.
"Chris Taladay is one of the most clutch players in the country," Rooney continued. "I've said that before, and I will continue to tell anyone who wants to listen. He always rises up."
The Knights will close out the C-USA Championship against Tulane at noon on Saturday.
UCF manufactured the opening run of the game after Ronnie Richardson (2-for-3, 4 runs) led off the contest with a single and stole his 23rd base of the year. Taladay drove home his teammate on a groundout and finished the day at 47 RBI for the year.
The Knights went back to work in the second, smacking three doubles and a single for three runs and knocking out ECU starter Jharel Cotton. Nick Carrillo (2-for-4) and Jeramy Matos (2-for-4, 1 RBI) hit back-to-back two-baggers and Richardson hit his 14th double while Darnell Sweeney (1-for-5) drove him home with a single up the middle to make it 4-1.
After back-to-back wild pitches scored UCF runners in the third, Taladay smashed a 1-1 pitch well over the right-field wall for his fifth homer of the season to bring home Spencer Haynes (1-for-4) and Richardson in the fourth. It was the first dinger for the Knights since May 13 at Marshall.
"It was much needed after yesterday," Taladay said about the offensive outburst. "We don't have losing streaks here. We came out and showed them what we could do."
UCF tacked on two more runs in the eighth on Taladay's triple to right-center and Erik Barber's RBI double that took a wicked hop over the third baseman's head. Chris Matulis, who relieved Lively in the seventh, finished the job in the eighth with a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
News & Notes:
-After (7) UAB knocked off Tulane in the first game on Friday, the C-USA title game will be (5) Memphis against the Blazers on Sunday
-It was the first time the Knights run-ruled an opponent in the C-USA Championship
-Richardson was hit by a pitch in his fifth-consecutive game and has now been plunked 33 times this year
-Taladay reached 75 hits with his 23rd multiple hit game of the year
-The Knights have now topped the Pirates three times in 2012. Prior to this season, UCF had never won more than two games in a season against them