UCF no longer are in control of their fate after loss to Houston

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Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

James Vasques went 2 for 4 with two home runs and four RBIs in UCF's loss to Houston.

CLEARWATER — James Vasquez went 2 for 4 with two home runs, but it wasn’t enough for the UCF Knights as they fell 13-8 to the Houston Cougars in the American Athletic Conference tournament on Friday at Bright House Field in Clearwater.

UCF ace Eric Skoglund started the game on the mound for the Knight’s but only lasted 4 and a third innings, while giving up seven earned runs on 11 hits.

“He obviously didn’t have his best stuff,” said UCF head coach Terry Rooney about his starting pitcher. “But he competed like crazy, (Skoglund)’s one of those guys.”

Houston got a single run in both the first and third inning, before having a big five-run fifth inning that put them in front of UCF 7-1. The Cougars used six hits in the fifth to jump out to the six-run lead.

Erik Barber got UCF back into the game in the sixth inning when his three-run home run brought the Knights to within three runs. Tommy Williams added another run with a two-out homer to right, cutting Houston’s lead to 7-5 going into the seventh.

But the Cougars would get four runs back in the top of the seventh, after a trio of UCF errors led to four unearned runs for Houston, extending their lead to 11-5.

Three of Houston’s seventh inning runs came following a Kam Gellinger error on a fly ball with two outs.

“We made some mistakes that are uncharacteristic of us,” said Rooney about the error-filled inning. “Particularly as of late we’ve played very good defense, but listen it’s baseball, you win as a team, you lose as a team.”

Houston added two more in the eighth inning, to extend the Cougars lead to 13-5.

Vasquez hit his second home run of the game in the eighth inning, cutting Houston’s lead to 13-8, but it was too little too late for UCF.

“We just need to move on,” said Rooney after the game. “We didn’t collectively as a team play great tonight, but what we did do is battle.”

The Knights finished the game with four errors, which was a season first for UCF. It was also the first game of the season where they hit four home runs.

UCF’s pitching staff gave up a season-high 20 hits throughout the game, with Houston out-hitting the Knights by 9. The last time the Knights allowed 20 hits was on May 11, 2013 against Tulane.

With the loss to Houston UCF’s record in pool play of the tournament falls to 2-1 and the Knights will now need a win by UConn in Saturday morning’s game against Temple in order to make it to Sunday’s championship game.

UConn’s game against Temple is set for 11 a.m. and can be seen on the American Digital Network.

If UCF makes it to Sunday’s championship game the Knights will play the winner of Pool A (Louisville, Rutgers, USF or Memphis) at noon, with the game being televised on ESPNU.

“We’re going for it, I can tell you if we play on Sunday we’re going for it,” said Rooney about if his team made it to the championship game. “Obviously when you got an opportunity on that Sunday to win a championship we’re going to do whatever it takes.”