Knights win big behind Lively’s pitching, defeat Columbia 10-3

ORLANDO — Ben Lively pitched seven innings of five hit baseball while tying his career high with 11 strikeouts as the UCF Knights defeated the Columbia University Lions 10-3 on Friday night, March 15 at Jay Bergman Field on the UCF campus.

With the victory, the Knights extend their win streak to five and they lead the overall series against Columbia 11-2. It didn’t take long for Lively to get going as he was able to strikeout the side in the first inning, en route to his second consecutive start with 11 strikeouts.

“Ben Lively did what he did, he gave us a chance to win tonight,” said UCF manager Terry Rooney. “It certainly wasn’t his best performance tonight. Statistically it was good, but he can do better and he knows that. Lively ran into trouble in the fourth inning after allowing a leadoff walk and a single after the base on balls, but he was able to get the next three batters out and the frame unscathed.

“To be honest with you when we were sitting in there that inning in my mind that was the Ben Lively of old,” said Rooney. “In his first two years he would create his own jams, lose focus and then he would rise up and get the job done.”

The Knights offense didn’t take long to get going, as they were able to get five runs in the first three innings of the game. Austin Johnston lead the way for UCF as he was able to drive in the first run of the game with a RBI single in the first inning that scored Erik Hempe.

“We got on the board early, which was a change compared to what we had been which is really nice,” said Johnston. “It gives us a little padding and it gives Ben a little room to just give up no rebounds as we call it.”

The Knights were also good at playing small ball as they were great on the base paths stealing three bases and were able to take advantage of balls that were in the dirt. “The little things like base running like coach said in our earlier meeting, it was the best that we’ve done taking dirt ball reads and we played more of the fundamental side of the game.”

Columbia would get their first run of the game when they successfully complete a double steal in the fifth inning. Nick Crucet stole second base and then Jordan Siena was able to steal home when Ryan Breen threw down to second trying to throw out Crucet. It was the first time since Feb. 22 that Lively gave up an earned run. His ERA for the year is now 0.50.

Columbia would then add two more runs in the ninth inning off of Tyler Martin, but Martin would settle down and close the door.

UCF will face off against Columbia for the second game of the four game set on Saturday, March 16 at 4:00 p.m. at Jay Bergman Field.