Knights overload Huskies 7-3

ORLANDO – Ben Lively pitched seven innings allowing one earned run on three hits and recording six strikeouts as the University of Central Florida Knights defeated the Connecticut Huskies 7-3 on Friday, Feb. 22 at Jay Bergman Field on the UCF campus.

“It started with Ben Lively,” said UCF head coach Terry Rooney. “He pitched like a friday night number one started needs to. He went toe-to-toe, pitch-for-pitch with their guy.”

Eric Hempe went 3-3 with two runs batted in and one run scored, all of which came during a six run fifth inning for the Knights.

Lively started off the fourth by striking out Vinny Siena before giving up home run to L.J. Mazzilli with one out in the inning, giving the Huskies a 1-0. Lively then settled down and got Bobby Melley to ground out to third base.

“I started knuckling down right away after that home run,” said Lively after the game. “So I just settled down a little bit and started to throw a little bit harder.”

After a two-out bunt single by Eric Yavarone, Lively got Tom Verdi to groundout to first to end the inning.

“We hung in there offensively,” said Rooney. “We continued to have confidence, put together good at bats and obviously it led to the big inning.”

The Knights used a six run fifth inning to jump out to a 6-1 lead over Connecticut midway through the game.

The rally started when Jeramy Matos reached base on an error by shortstop Tom Verdi. Tommy Williams then hit a single to left field. Connecticut pitcher Anthony Marzi then loaded the bases when he walked JoMarcos Woods with one out in the inning. The Knights tied the game at 1-1 thanks to an infield single by catcher Ryan Breen.

“We have such a good lineup,” said Hempe about the fifth inning rally. “That our second time through we have all the confidence in the world that we’re going to to hit him pretty hard.”

Erik Hempe gave UCF a 3-1 lead when he drilled a line drive over the center fielder’s head to plate both Williams and Woods. After a Huskies’ pitching change James Vasquez had a two run single to right field, giving the Knights a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the inning. After the two run single by Vasquez, Connecticut made another pitching change and brought in Stephen Catalina to face Parker Webster who led off the fifth for UCF.

“It’s easy to hit when you got runners on base in front of you,” said Hempe when talking about his clutch hit. “So JoJo and Breen are doing a great job for me getting on base and I got one.”

Webster drove a Catalina pitch to left field, bringing in two runs. Williams ended the inning by striking out, but not before UCF scored six runs while bringing 12 batters to the plate.

Matos gave the Knights an extra insurance run when he led off the eighth inning with a solo homerun to center field, giving UCF a 7-1 lead.

Connecticut scored two runs in the ninth but the Huskies comeback fell short, as Spencer Davis closed the game out for UCF.

“I felt like I could have gone the rest of the game,” said Lively after his seven inning, one run performance. “My arm felt good, so I’m just waiting for him to let me loose one game.”

With the win the Knights improve their record to 3-2 for the season. This was the first time UCF has faced off against UCONN in baseball.

“We’ve got to play every pitch,” said Rooney after the game. “You can’t take pitches off, at the end of the day we’re going to play numerous games that are decided by one or two runs and every single pitch matters.”

UCF plays again tomorrow against Texas Tech at 6:30 p.m. as part of Wawa Classic weekend at Jay Bergman Field.