June 2, 2012

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What a night for the Knights

By David Furones

College Baseball Insider


CORAL GABLES, Fla. – UCF survived two comebacks from No. 4 seed Stony Brook to get past the Seawolves 9-8 Saturday night at the Coral Gables Regional.


Shortstop Darnell Sweeney hit a three-run homer to right in the second, and designated hitter Jeramy Matos hit another in the sixth to spark the UCF offense.


Down 9-5, Stony Brook made a furious comeback in the eighth against three different Knights relievers to cut the lead to 9-8. Travis Jankowski, who finished 2 for 5 with five RBI, doubled to left-center to drive home two, and Pat Cantwell drove him in with a line drive to center.


Seawolves three-hole hitter William Carmona then belted a line drive to right, but UCF’s Alex Friedrich made the catch banging up against the wall to save what would’ve been the tying run.


“Off the bat it sounded pretty well, but I thought he might’ve gotten jammed a little bit,” Friedrich said. “I know the wind was howling out to right. So I took a couple steps back. Obviously I don’t want to get burned. Then I heard Ronnie [Richardson] tell me, ‘Room, room, room,’ and then I heard, ‘Gravel,’ and then he said, ‘Fence, fence.’ So communication really helped right there.”


The Seawolves then had the tying run on second with one out in the ninth, but UCF closer Joe Rogers, who earned his 13th save of the season, punched out Sal Intagliata and then induced a Kevin Krause groundout to short to finish off Stony Brook.


UCF surrendered a 5-0 lead to allow Stony Brook to tie the game, but Matos stroked a Brandon McNitt slider over the Alex Rodriguez Park left-field scoreboard for a three-run homer in the seventh that put the Knights back on top 8-5.


“I was looking for an off-speed pitch because that’s what they had been throwing me,” Matos said. “I saw one. I took that fastball before, and I saw the hanger. I just threw my hands and realized it was hit pretty well.”


McNitt settled in nicely after giving up five runs in the first two innings. He retired 11 straight batters at one point before ultimately giving up the Matos homer. He was dealt the loss after allowing eight runs (six of them earned) off five hits and three walks in his six innings of work.


UCF starter Ray Hanson was given the five-run lead to start the game, but he was pulled in the third inning in favor of Chris Matulis after 2.1 innings where he gave up three runs off five hits and four walks.


Matulis was given a 5-3 lead, but allowed the Seawolves’ three-hole hitter William Carmona to double home two runs to tie the game at 5.


Matulis, who closed the Knights’ first win of the Regional after the long delay Friday, remained in the game to eat up five innings for Rooney. He was given a lead after the Matos home run, and ultimately earned the win.


While four runs were charged to him – two for runners he left on base for reliever Roman Madrid – UCF coach Terry Rooney talked about the impact he has made on the Knights’ postseason run.


“Look at all the different roles he’s fulfilled for us this year,” Rooney said. “He’s been a starter; he’s been a long reliever today; yesterday he was a closer.


“Chris has continued to get better and better for us throughout the entire season. Chris had a Tommy John last year, didn’t pitch, and I think as you’ve seen the season continue to progress, his command has gotten better.”


UCF’s 5-0 lead was erased because Stony Brook’s Jankowski responded with a three-run

shot in the bottom of the second that snuck over the 330’ sign down the right-field line. Then Carmona drilled a two-run double in the fourth that tied the game at 5.


With No. 1 seed Miami ousted in the Coral Gables regional and the No. 2 seed UCF now 2-0, the Knights are in the driver’s seat to advance into the super regional. They will play Sunday at 7 p.m. awaiting the winner of Stony Brook-Missouri State at 2 p.m.


“It’s where you want to be as a baseball team,” Rooney said. “You want to put yourself in position where somebody has to beat you twice, but at the end of the day, we just have to play one game at a time.”


The Seawolves ended up on the losing end of the hard-fought game, but their coach appreciated his players’ determination and perseverance through the deficits they bounced back from.


“That was a toe-to-toe straight-up fistfight, and they found a way to come out on top,” Stony Brook coach Matt Senk said. “I could not be prouder of my team tonight. They could’ve many times not fought back in that game, and they did. They kept fighting and they kept fighting.”

The loss for Stony Brook snaps its 12-game winning streak. The Seawolves had also won 23 of 24 games before Saturday night.


Stony Brook will now face Missouri State and pitcher Cody Schumaker (8-1, 3.58 ERA). Senk named Evan Stecko-Haley (7-3, 3.08 ERA) as his starter.



Game Notes

·        Stony Brook left nine men on base while UCF left just one.

·        The one-run game was the 21st of the season for UCF and the second one they’ve won in this Coral Gables regional.

·        The Knights were able to get to McNitt right away in the first inning Saturday night. The top of the order loaded the bases and second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum skipped a throw past his first baseman on the turn of a double play ball that would’ve ended the inning. Two runs scored on the play.

·        UCF coach Terry Rooney referenced to the May 24 15-1 loss to UAB in the Conference USA Tournament where his Knights were run-ruled as a turning point for his ball club. Since that game, UCF has won four straight, including these first two in the Coral Gables regional.

·        Rooney would not name a starter for Sunday, but did say he would let the pitcher know so he can sleep easy at the hotel.