UCF drops regular season finale against USF


Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

With Saturday’s loss, the Knights will head into the American Tournament on Wednesday as the No. 7 seed.

TAMPA, Fla. — In a game that the USF Bulls were treating as a must-win game, they certainly performed to expectations.

USF closed out the final game of the regular season on Saturday with a 5-4 win over the UCF Knights in front of 1,311 at the USF Varsity Baseball Stadium.

“They made some big pitches today when they needed to,” Knights head coach Terry Rooney said. “They got a couple of clutch hits when they needed it particularly with two outs there in that one inning. They made some big pitches when they needed to.”

The Knights (31-25, 10-14 American) struck first in the contest on Eugene Vasquez’s two-run triple in the second inning. Vasquez replaced JoMarcos Woods in the lineup after Woods suffered a broken pinkie in Thursday’s game.

USF answered in the bottom-half of the second inning for three runs after connecting on three consecutive base hits with two outs and would pick up two more runs in the fourth inning to take the lead for good.

Knights starting pitcher Robby Howell took the loss on Saturday after surrendering five earned runs in six innings of work. Howell finished with three walks and six strikeouts while throwing 65 of his total 110 pitches for strikes.

“I thought Robby did a decent job out there,” Rooney said. “He gave us an opportunity to win; that’s what you talk about as a starting pitcher. He wasn’t as dominant as he’s been in the past but he gave us a chance to win.”

The Bulls (32-22-1, 13-11 American) entered Saturday’s game playing for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament as the team is viewed by some media outlets as being close to earning an outright bid. The win ensured USF of their fourth series win in conference play.

The two teams will now turn to the American Baseball Tournament beginning on Tuesday in Clearwater.

The Knights will open up the double-elimination tournament on Wednesday against East Carolina at 11 a.m. Zach Rodgers will get the nod on the mound for Rooney’s team while an opponent for the Bulls has yet to be determined with conference games still to be played.