May 26, 2012
UCF scored three runs over the final two innings and a trio of hurlers combined to limit Tulane to three hits as the second-seeded Knights opened the final day of pod play in the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship with a 6-2 win over the Green Wave on Saturday at Trustmark Park.
After falling behind 2-1 following home run by Tulane right fielder Nick Schneeberger, UCF starter Ray Hanson retired the next 13 batters he faced and allowed just three base runners the rest of his outing. Roman Madrid (5-2) earned the victory out of the bullpen after fanning a pair and walking one in 1.2 innings of no-hit baseball, and Joe Rodgers tossed a perfect ninth to close out the contest.
In victory, UCF improves to 43-15 on the year and finished 2-1 in C-USA Championship pod play. The Knights, who are ranked as high as No. 14 in the national polls and entered the day with an RPI of 23, will learn of their postseason destination on Monday when the NCAA Selection Committee announces the field of 64. Tulane, meanwhile, fell to 38-20 and will hope to be among teams chosen for the postseason.
With the score tied at 2-2 after seven complete, UCF took the lead for good with three runs here in the top of the eighth. First baseman D.J. Hicks walked to open the inning, and designated hitter Jeramy Matos followed with a single. Third baseman Nick Carrillo advanced the runners 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt, and Green Wave reliever D.J. Ponder set up a potential double play by intentionally walking right fielder Erik Barber.
Ponder struck out left fielder JoMarcos Woods for the second out of the inning and got nine-hole hitter Spencer Haynes to dribble a ground ball to first. The ball took a tricky hop and reserve infielder Tucker Oakley was not able to make a play at the plate or at first, and that allowed Hicks to score. After gaining control of the ball, Oakley stood in frustration after seeing the Knights go ahead, but Matos never stopped running and wound up scoring all the way from second on the play. Centerfielder Ronnie Richardson tacked on another run with an RBI-single through the left side of the infield to put the Knights ahead, 5-2.
Madrid pitched his way around a one-out walk in the bottom of the inning, and UCF got an unearned run in the top of the ninth when catcher Chris Taladay and Hicks drew back-to-back walks to open the stanza and Woods hit a two-out, RBI-single through the right side of the infield to account for the final score.
Barber, Haynes and Matos shared team-high hit honors with two each and Haynes led the way in the RBI category with a pair. Hanson finished the day with a pair of strikeouts and allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in 6.1 innings of work.
UCF wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as Matos ripped a two-out RBI single up the middle off of Tulane starter David Napoli to plate Taladay from second and stake the Knights to an early 1-0 lead after a half inning of action. It could have been worse for Tulane as shortstop Darnell Sweeney drew a one-out walk, but was caught trying to steal second. Sweeney's free pass was one of three issued by Napoli in the inning as Taladay and Hicks also walked to set up Matos' run-scoring base hit.
Tulane has struck back quickly in the home half of the inning as Schneeberger hammered a two-run homer high over the wall in left, but that would be the only tally of the day for the Green Wave. The squad from New Orleans had just two more hits the rest of the way, and one of those came when a Bowen Woodson ground ball hit teammate Brennan Middleton trying to advance from first two second in the fifth.
UCF saw a scoring opportunity slip through its fingers in the third when Schneeberger gunned down Taladay at the plate trying to score from second on a Barber single to right, but the Knights were able to tie things up in the fourth with the help of a Green Wave error.
Napoli pitched his way in and out of trouble over the next two innings, but Alex Massey was called in from the bullpen after Haynes singled and Richardson walked off the Tulane starter. Massey appeared to get his team out of a jam as he induced a tailor-made double-play ground ball off the bat of two-hole hitter Darnell Sweeney as Green Wave shortstop Brennan Middleton fielded the ball cleanly and tossed to second baseman Bowen Woodson for the second out of the inning. Woodson's pivot toss was low and squirted past starting first baseman Sean Potkay and the error allowed Haynes to score from second to set up the Knights' late-inning heroics.
Ponder (2-1) was tagged with the loss after giving up four runs (three earned) on three hits and four walks while posting a strikeout in 1.0 inning of relief.