June 1, 2012
Ronnie Richardson became the first player in 13 months to homer off Missouri State's Nick Petree, the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year, to lead UCF to a 2-1 win at the Coral Gables Regional. Michael Fuda's solo homer in the seventh gave Rice a 3-2 win over Prairie View at the Houston Regional, as John Simms and Tyler Duffey combined to strike out 10, while allowing just two hits.
UCF 2, MISSOURI STATE 1
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The events of Friday's eighth inning of the NCAA Regional were so dynamic and so clutch that even some three hours later UCF head coach Terry Rooney was still shaking his head in amazement.
Closer Joe Rogers started the inning out by pitching out of a bases loaded, no-out jam, and Ronnie Richardson and Chris Taladay followed with clutch hits that allowed UCF to escape with a 2-1 defeat of Missouri State in Game 1 play of the NCAA Regional.
UCF (44-15) had to wait out a 2-hour, 40-minute rain delay to finish out the ninth inning and the 15th NCAA Tournament victory in school history. But throughout the delay and afterward, the Knights couldn't stop thinking about the dramatics of the eighth inning.
``Huge moment is an understatement,'' Rooney said. ``During the delay we were talking amongst ourselves with the coaches and I said that inning had the potential to go down as one of the greatest innings in the history of UCF baseball. When you think about a 1-1 game in the NCAA Regional, bases loaded and nobody out, and for Joe Rogers to work out of that, it was incredible.
``And then to come back and get the go-ahead run in the bottom half of the eighth, that had everything you would want in a college baseball game,'' Rooney added.
The standouts were aplenty on Friday for second-seeded UCF. Lefty Chris Matulis pitched the ninth inning for the first save of his college career, while starter Ben Lively shut out third-seeded Missouri State (39-21) over 5 2/3 innings. Richardson, UCF's do-everything leadoff hitter, opened the bottom of the first with a home run and started the go-ahead rally in the eighth. Chris Taladay singled in Richardson to give the Knights a lead that they would not surrender.
``Ronnie is a quick guy, so I knew anything that I saw up (in the strike zone) I was going after it,'' Taladay said. `` It was a changeup early in the count and I was just trying to make some early action.''
In a NCAA Regional for a second straight year, UCF will face the winner of the Miami-Stony Brook game on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Friday's win allowed UCF to stay out of the loser's bracket like last season. The experience of the 2011 Tallahassee region was a huge factor on Friday, Taladay said.
``That experience helps a lot, especially how we ended it last year,'' said Taladay, referring to UCF's two losses to Alabama last spring. ``We don't want that again. We're not looking to lose again. We're coming out fighting this year.''
UCF's victory was significant considering the quality of competition on the mound on Friday. Missouri State starter Nick Petree was named the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year on Thursday after leading the nation in ERA this season at 0.92. But the Knights got two hits from Richardson and the go-ahead looper from Taladay to push across the two runs against Petree.
``Ronnie Richardson is one of the best players in the country and is one of the most clutch players in college baseball,'' Rooney said. ``He rose up and it goes back to the adage that your best players rise up in the biggest situation. He did that by getting the hit there late.''
UCF played well defensively all day with several gems, but its biggest play of the day might have been a dropped popup in foul territory. With the bases loaded in eighth inning, Missouri State's Eric Cheray lofted a fly ball down the line in left. Ryan Breen, who was making just his seventh start of the season in left field, couldn't handle the popup in foul territory. It's probably a good thing since Breen would have had a difficult time throwing out a tagging Luke Voit. Cheray ultimately popped up and UCF got out of the jam when Travis Shreve gloved a grounder and flipped to second base.
Rogers allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases early in the eighth, but he kept his calm as he registered the next three outs to get out of the jam.
``That eighth inning was crazy. It was probably the biggest inning I've ever pitched in my life,'' said Rogers (5-1), who was credited with the win. ``I got down with no outs, but I just told myself that I've got to go do it. It was a situation where I had to clear my head and go pitch-to-pitch.''
Missouri State, which had 12 runners left on base during the game, tied the game at 1-all in the seventh inning by stringing together a double and a single. Pinch-hitter Dillon Becker's fly ball to left field carried in the wind blowing out and hit off the wall for a double. UCF kept the game tied later in the inning when Alex Friedrich's throw from right field nabbed Kevin Medrano off third base.
UCF sophomore starter Ben Lively, who pitched well last week in the Conference USA tournament to regain his momentum after a poor outing late in the regular season against Rice, was clutch throughout Friday's first six innings. In 5 2/3 innings, he struck out six batters, but more importantly he stranded seven Missouri State base runners.
Lively jammed hitters early in counts with fastballs and used a good slider to get strikeouts. He allowed just three hits and pitched around four walks. Of his 113 pitches, 62 went for strikes. Richardson's leadoff home run calmed his nerves and he hung tough as he out of several jams.
``(Richardson's home run) pumped me up right away and with the way the game was going I knew it was going to be a close game,'' Lively said. ``I thought that might have won the game right there. It helped me get locked in the whole game.''
UCF got stellar defensive plays early in the game from Friedrich, D.J. Hicks and Breen to maintain the 1-0 lead. Hicks scooped up a low throw in the second inning to keep a runner at second base, while Friedrich made a diving catch near the right field line in the third with two runners on base.
And in the fourth inning, Breen caught a fly ball before crashing into the wall. Usually a catcher, Breen was making just his seventh start in left field because of a sore wrist. And in the fifth, a hard ground ball deflected off Hicks' glove, but Travis Shreve scooped it up to make the play.
Lively pitched out of trouble in each of the first three runs to keep the Knights ahead, 1-0. With the bases loaded in the top of the first, Lively induced a check swing on a ball in the dirt and when the runner broke from third he was easily tagged out. He ended the second inning with two strikeouts after a Missouri State runner had reached second base.
With two on in the third, Friedrich dove to catch a looper near the right field line, preventing one if not two runs from scoring.
Carrillo and Sweeney made outstanding plays in the sixth inning to stem another Missouri State rally. Carrillo snagged a hard hit ball early in the inning to start a double play. Then, after Madrid relieved Lively, Sweeney went deep into the hole and forced a runner at third to end the inning. For Sweeney, a Miramar native, the game was somewhat of a homecoming.
UCF couldn't build on its 1-0 lead when it missed great scoring chances in the third and fourth innings. After the first two hitters of the third reached, Petree retired the next three Knights. And with two runners on in the fourth, UCF couldn't convert a sacrifice and ran themselves out of the inning.
And in the bottom of the eighth inning, UCF used Rogers' working out of a jam to build some momentum to push across the winning run. Rooney said his Knights are playing with a purpose and Friday's victory shows the resiliency of the squad.
``The one thing I'm the most proud of all year with these kids is their consistency. Every single day they have shown up and anytime we've had to bounce back they've done it,'' Rooney said. ``I do not worry one bit about the mental state of our team. They are kids who are confident and proven and they are here, quite honestly, on a mission trying to do something great.''
RICE 3, PRAIRIE VIEW 2
HOUSTON - Michael Fuda led off the bottom of the seventh inning by blasting a solo home run to break a 2-2 tie as Rice defeated Prairie View A&M 3-2 during the first day of the NCAA Houston Regional at Reckling Park.
Rice starting pitcher John Simms went a season-long seven innings, giving up two hits and one earned run while striking out seven, also a season best. Reliever Tyler Duffey did not give up a hit while striking out three in two innings of work to pick up his seventh save of the year.
The hanging-on for a victory in a tight one-run contest is becoming a little all too familiar for Rice head coach Wayne Graham. On Friday night against the state-rival Panthers the Owls had to first come from behind to finally claim a the team's ninth one-run win of the season.
"I think we are committed to the thriller," coach Graham said. "We can't play a boring game I guess, but when a lefty is throwing like that you are going to struggle. Lance (Berkman) was just down in my office making all kinds of excuses for our hitters, saying he struggled with them too, so I guess it's ok. But thank goodness Fuda hit that one, we had Duffey to close and John (Simms) kept us in the game, so here we are. I'll take the win."
With the win, the Owls (41-17) moved into Saturday evening's winner's bracket game against Arkansas. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. The Razorbacks defeated Sam Houston State 5-4 earlier in the day. Prairie View A&M (28-24) will play Sam Houston State at 1 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game.
In Friday's contest, Colby Hines' two-run double in the top of the second gave the Panthers an early lead. Hines' drive to right centerfield came after Evan Richard walked and Stef Hernandez got onboard via an error. Hernandez hit a grounder toward shortstop Ford Stainback and got on board when the Rice infielder dropped the ball and made a late throw to second for the potential force.
The Owls would get one of the runs back in the bottom half of the inning. Shane Hoelscher led off the second with a walk before Michael Aquino singled. Geoff Perrott laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners before Stainbeck's sacrifice fly to right field drove in the Owls' first run.
An inning later, Rice would tie the score, 2-2. J.T. Chargois reached on an error and with two outs, Michael Ratterree belted a triple to deep centerfield to drive in a run.
The Owls, who left 11 on base during the night, stranded two runners in both the fourth and fifth innings. Rice was retired in order in the sixth to bring Fuda to the plate to start the seventh. Fuda's home run to left centerfield came on a 1-2 pitch and was the senior's eighth of the season. It was also the Owls' first homer since May 18th.
"He was working away and mixing up, but a lot of us were not staying back," Fuda said. "He would get the ball up and we'd get ourselves out, pretty much. (On the home run) I was thinking triple all the way off the bat. I didn't think I hit it square, but I knew I got a good piece of it and the wind wasn't helping it."
The Owls have taken one step in the Regional. Coach Graham explained facing a talented Arkansas team will be another big step to take.
"Well they (Arkansas) are difficult outs and they've got a guy throwing who definitely is going to be high in the major league draft next year," coach Graham said. "He's got good stuff, but if we pitch well I feel like we can do very well against him. We are going to have to have competitive at-bats, but they are a strong ballclub."
(4)FLORIDA STATE 2, UAB 1
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. ---- UAB starter Michael Busby held No. 3 national seed Florida State to two runs on five hits Friday, but the Blazers couldn't get key hits at the plate and wound up on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision in the first round of the Tallahassee Regional.
Busby threw a career-high 126 pitches -- 20 more than he had thrown in any game this season -- in an eight inning, complete-game performance in front of a crowd of 3,713 against the regional's top seed at FSU's Dick Howser Stadium.
UAB -- which had been 13-4 in one-run games this season -- had its chances offensively. The Blazers out-hit Florida State, 10-5, but stranded 12 base runners in the game, including the potential tying run at third base in the top of the ninth.
Making its second-ever NCAA tournament appearance and its first in 21 years, UAB (32-29) now faces an elimination game Saturday at Noon ET (11 a.m. CT) against regional No. 2 seed Mississippi State, which lost to No. 3 seed Samford in Friday's first game in Tallahassee. Florida State (44-15) advances to meet Samford in the winner's bracket Friday at 7 p.m. ET.
Saturday's UAB-Mississippi State game will be streamed live on ESPN3 and will air on the radio in the Birmingham area on WJOX-AM 690.
"You get a feel for what we think and what our kids think of Michael Busby just watching him," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said, "that beautiful balance of composure and competitiveness. I though he threw a heck of a game and gave us a chance to win.
"Most games come down to a fine line. We certainly had opportunities. We left 12 on, so we certainly had our chances but didn't come through tonight."
A two-out RBI double in the fifth inning from ACC Player of the Year James Ramsey proved to be the game-winner Friday for Florida State. Sherman Johnson scored from first on the play as one of two batters who walked and later came around to score the Seminole runs.
Earlier in the fifth, Johnson made a key defensive play after UAB tied the game 1-1 on a John Frost groundout. The FSU third baseman cut down Ivan De Jesus trying to score from third on an infield chopper to keep the game tied.
The Blazers put the first two batters on base in both the fifth and sixth innings but managed just the one run. They then loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh but couldn't scratch another run across.
"I thought they handled (the pressure) great," Shoop said. "I thought we were ready to go from the shoot. I thought we played well. If we had come through with some two-out hits, we'd be feeling awfully good. Credit their pitching staff for not allowing us to do that."
Florida State reliever Gage Smith (4-0) worked out of each of those jams from the fifth through seventh frames and went on to earn the win, tossing three and two-thirds scoreless innings in relief of Scott Sitz. The FSU starter struck out eight but needed 73 pitches to get through the first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth.
Seminole closer Robert Benincasa came on to throw the final inning and picked up his 14th save. De Jesus reached on a one-out double in the ninth and moved to third on a Frost flyout before Benincasa got Patrick Palmeiro to pop up to end the game.
Busby (5-5) suffered the loss for UAB despite his fourth straight impressive outing. Since his May 17 start against Southern Miss, Busby has thrown 24 and two-thirds innings, allowing just four runs on 14 hits. Friday's performance was his second complete game of the season.
De Jesus finished with a pair of doubles for UAB, while leadoff man Ryan Prinzing and Harry Clark also had two hits each.
Ramsey joined Josh Delph with a pair of hits for Florida State and drove in both the Seminole runs. He had an RBI single in the third inning to plate the first run of the night.
ST. JOHN'S 11, EAST CAROLINA 3
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - For the second-straight year St. John's (38-21) got the best of East Carolina (35-23-1) in a regional opener as the Red Storm got multiple hits from five players and cruised to an 11-3 win in game one of the Chapel Hill Regional Friday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium. With the win, St. John's moves into the winner's bracket to face the winner of the North Carolina-Cornell game, while ECU will play the loser Saturday afternoon.
After a scoreless first frame, the Red Storm scored a run in the second and third frames by way of playing "small ball" to take a 2-0 lead, which they would never relinquish. Jeremy Baltz narrowly missed a home run to start the second when he stoked a first pitch offering off the top of the wall in left center. Groundouts by Sean O'Hare and Zach Lauricella moved Baltz around the bases for a 1-0 lead.
In the third frame it was more of the same for St. John's. This time Bret Dennis led off with a two-base hit to left center before moving to third on Kyle Richardson's sac bunt back to Jeff Hoffman in front of the mound. Jimmy Brennan's ground out to second scored Dennis putting the Red Storm up two, 2-0.
Four hits in the fifth by St. John's led to three runs and extended the lead to 5-0. After back-to-back base hits by Dennis and Richardson put runners at first and second, Brennan's sac bunt moved them into scoring position leading to a Pirate pitching change that brought in Andy Smithmyer. Matt Wessinger and Frank Schwindel followed with consecutive RBI singles putting ECU down five runs.
Kyle Hansen (5-5) picked up the win after throwing 7 1/3 solid frames where he allowed three runs (all earned) on eight hits. The right-hander fanned eight on the day without issuing a walk. Steven Rivera closed out the contest scattering three hits over the final 1 2/3 innings with a pair of punch outs.
Hoffman (3-2) suffered the loss in his first NCAA regional appearance surrendering four runs (all earned) on seven hits with a pair of strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. Smithmyer worked 1 2/3 innings in relief allowing a run on three hits with two strikeouts before passing the ball to freshman Dylan Dickens, who surrendered a career-high three runs (all earned) on three hits. Jake Harris (0.2 IP), Dario Santangelo (0.1 IP, 3 Rs) and Austin Chrismon (0.2 IP) tossed the final 1 2/3 frames.
After St. John's added a run in the top of the seventh, ECU responded with its first run of the contest pulling within five, 6-1. Corey Thompson, who was 2-for-4 at the plate, extended his hit streak to nine games after leading off the inning with a single up the middle. Chase McDonald singled up the middle with two outs and Bryan Bass followed with an RBI base hit to center scoring Thompson.
Each team scored a pair of runs in the eighth putting the score at 8-3. Brennan singled through the right side scoring Anthony Iacomini and Wessinger's sac bunt to Harris pushed across Richardson.
Thompson laced a single to center scoring Tim Younger and Drew Reynolds in the bottom half of the eighth. Younger reached on an infield single and Reynolds roped his second base hit of the day, doubling down the left field line setting up Thompson's two-run shot.
St. John's capped the scoring with a three-run ninth to cap the scoring at 11-3.
Offensively, the two teams combined for 27 hits with St. John's pounding out 16 and ECU recording 11. Six of the Pirates starters registered at least one hit with Bass, McDonald, Reynolds and Thompson each collecting multiple hits.