UCF scores seven runs in the fourth inning to beat Memphis

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Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

Derrick Salberg knocked in three runs on Friday night to lead the Knights to victory.

ORLANDO, Fla. — With so few games remaining in the 2015 season, the UCF Knights are hoping that Friday’s win can kickstart their offense heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

The Knights (29-21, 8-11 American) scored seven runs in the fourth inning to help beat the Memphis Tigers 10-2 in Game 1 of the final home series of the season at Jay Bergman Field in front of an announced crowd of 987.

“That’s one of the best innings offensively we’ve had in a while,” Knights head coach Terry Rooney said. “We did a lot of different things there. We had a couple of big hits – getting those bunts down and forcing the action. To be able to get that momentum and string together a couple of big hits [was big].”

Knights starting pitcher Zach Rodgers (9-0) turned in another strong performance on Friday, allowing just two runs over eight innings of work while striking out 10 and walking two batters.

“I felt good tonight,” Rodgers said. “I struggled a little bit early on but after that [big] inning I settled in a little bit, got comfortable and just went after the hitters.”

UCF’s 10 runs is the most they’ve scored since defeating Tulane 8-0 on April 18 and is the first time they’ve scored double-digit runs since putting up 18 against Presbyterian on March 22.

“It feels great just to get that big lead to get the monkey off of our backs,” Knights center fielder Derrick Salberg said. “We have just been working very hard in the cages day in and day out. We haven’t really been successful with guys on base lately [but] that big inning really helped out.”

Memphis (32-16, 10-9 American) dropped their seventh-straight series opener in conference play. Tigers starting pitcher Alex Gunn left the game in the fourth inning after recording just one out while allowing seven runs (three earned) and striking out three batters.

The Tigers entered play on Friday in third place in the American Conference, but would fall back a position in the standings after USF beat Tulane 12-0. Memphis remains two games out of first place, while the Knights remain steady in seventh place with five games remaining in conference play.

The American Baseball Championship begins on Tuesday, May 19 in Clearwater, Fla. This year’s tournament will feature all eight teams in the conference and will be a double-elimination format until the final game on Sunday.

The Tigers and Knights return to action on Saturday as UCF will honor its seniors on Senior Day. Dylan Toscano is expected to start for the Tigers while the Knights will counter with Cre Frinfrock. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.