Knights win conference series opener; lose 15-6 on Sunday

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Mary Stevens / Valencia Voice

Alex Friedrich is greeted by James Vasquez after Friedrich's home run in the fourth inning.

The Knights dropped their series finale against East Carolina, as the Pirates pitching fooled UCF batters all day, losing 15-6 Sunday afternoon at Jay Bergman Field.

Starter Eric Skoglund was roughed up early, as the freshman went just two and a third innings, and allowed four runs on four hits. Skoglund was also hindered by two walks, a Darnell Sweeney error, and a baulk.

“We have to figure out what our starting rotation is going to be moving forward,” said head coach Terry Rooney. “We need starting pitchers who can make it passed the third inning.”

Skoglund’s starting counter part, Jharel Cotton, threw six strong innings for the Pirates. The junior struck out seven different UCF hitters, and had a total of 11 on the afternoon.

“[Cotton] is a good pitcher. He did a good job against us today, but his change-up is what we were having trouble getting a hold of,” said Rooney.

A strength for the Knights all season has been their bullpen, but the relievers struggled just as much as Skoglund. In innings four through nine, ECU plated 11 runs, including five in the seventh against Matt Collins. The five relief pitchers also combined to allow 22 ECU runners to reach base.

The one bright spot for UCF on the afternoon, was the continued success of senior right fielder, Alex Friedrich. The Orlando native went 3-for-5 with two singles, a home run, and two RBIs. The home run was Friedrich’s third of the season, and his second in as many days.

“We came into today knowing it was an important game, but I think we came out a little flat. You can’t have that on Sunday’s,” said Friedrich.

The Knights managed to collect 11 hits in the game, but were plagued by base running mistakes, or two-out, nobody-on singles. Four of the six runs for UCF was scored in the bottom of the ninth.

“We need to get better, and every person on our team needs to realize that,” said Rooney. “Of course we’re going to lose games, but I’m disappointed in the way we lost today.”

The loss for UCF came just one day after the offense exploded for 10 runs on 16 hits.

UCF (19-5, 2-1), will travel south to play Florida Atlantic in a mid-week game, Tuesday in Boca Raton. Senior Ray Hanson is projected to start against the Owls. Hanson is 1-1 on the season, with a 1.40 era in four appearances this season.

“Tuesday is a big game in my mind,” said Rooney. “It’s a big game to see how we’re going to bounce back from the way we played today. I think it’s going to tell me a little bit about our team.”