UCF Knights, Winthrop Eagles first weekend series recap

ORLANDO – The University of Central Florida Knights got their first series sweep of the season when they defeated the Winthrop Eagles on March 1-3 at Jay Bergman Field on the UCF campus.

It was the first ever series meeting between the two schools, as the weekend was highlighted by offense and great relief pitching by the Knights. The opening game of the series was dominated by starting pitching as UCF junior Ben Lively pitched eight innings of shutout baseball while striking out nine Winthrop Eagles. UCF would take game one of the series 3-0.

Over the next two games, Winthrop would establish early leads off of UCF’s starting pitchers Danny Davis and Tyler Martin, but timely pitching from the Knights bullpen gave them a chance to make a comeback and ultimately win the game. “I would classify our pitching as very average this week,” said UCF head coach Terry Rooney.

In game two of the series, Winthrop would take a 4-3 lead heading into the fifth inning when UCF’s offense scored five runs with three of them coming off the bat of Jeramy Matos that would put the Knights up for good.  The middle of the lineup would drive in eight runs in game two of the series after struggling in the first game. “We never panic especially with this lineup,” said infielder Austin Johnston. “Our pitchers do a great job of keeping the game close, so we knew that they were going to keep it there and our offense we know that we have good enough bats in there, no matter what we can get the job done.”

Chris Matulis would pitch three innings in relief for the Knights to hold the lead for UCF. Matulis struck out six batters while allowing one hit. “Chris has done a great job. The game was in question so I went right to him,” said Rooney. Game two would go in favor of UCF 12-7.

Entering the final game of the weekend, UCF had already won the series and was looking for the sweep. It was Tyler Martin’s turn to pitch for the Knights. It was his first collegiate start, but it didn’t turn out the way he had hoped. Martin allowed six runs on four hits while lasting only two-thirds of an inning.

The Knights turned to Zac Favre to keep the game from getting away from them. Favre did exactly that, as he pitched five innings in relief allowing only one hit and striking out seven Eagles. UCF also bounced back defensively committing no errors, compared to the second game of the series when the Knights committed three. “My defense played a great game today and they couldn’t play any better,” said Favre.

UCF was able to slowly chip away at Winthrop’s lead and then in the fifth inning Chris Taladay hit an RBI double that scored JoMarcos Woods. Taladay finished the series hitting .583 with seven hits in 12 at-bats. He also drove in four runs, three of them being in the series finale.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in our offense,” said Taladay. “We can hit the ball well, there’s no doubt in my mind. Even if we are down or we are hitting bad, we are hitting the ball hard and this weekend was huge for us.”

In the same inning Jeramy Matos hit a two run homerun, which was his fifth of the season. The lead was cut to 6-4 and the Knights were able to tie the game in the eighth inning.

The game moved to the bottom of the ninth still tied at six when Nick Carrillo got a one out single. Carrillo was then lifted for a pinch runner who was Ryan Reilly. Reilly would then steal second base, which put the winning run at second base for Erik Hempe. Hempe delivered a walk off single to center field that scored Reilly to complete the comeback as UCF won 7-6.

The next series that UCF will play will be against Jacksonville which will be a two game set on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 at Jay Bergman Field.