Knights drop their final game; Rice hoists C-USA title

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Fred Lambert / Valencia Voice

The Rice Owls celebrate their seventh C-USA regular season championship since joining the conference in 2006.

Rice held off UCF 5-2 Saturday afternoon, to win their seventh C-USA championship in the last eight years. Alex Friedrich came to the plate in the ninth inning, representing the tying run, but struck out to end the game.

“What I told the kids is this ‘As disappointed as we are, we will be a better team for playing this series’ – in this environment and championship setting,” head coach Terry Rooney said.

LHP Brian Adkins started the game for the Knights. Adkins didn’t make it out of the second inning, as the southpaw allowed three runs on seven hits before Bryan Brown entered the game and stopped the bleeding. Brown extended the game for UCF, picking up Adkins’ slack, throwing six plus innings, and allowing just one earned run on six hits.

“Unfortunately he was up in the strike zone, and they were hitting him,” Rooney said. “He was getting behind too much, and obviously we had to get him out of there.

“Bryan Brown was awesome today. When I went out to the mound I said ‘In about 10 seconds you’re about to get a standing ovation in front of 2,000 people,’” Rooney said. “And that is four years of hard work, and Bryan Brown deserved that.”

The story of the game for the Knights was their lack of production with runners in scoring position. Despite notching nine hits in the game, UCF went 0-12 with runners in scoring position.

“We had our opportunities for two-out RBI, and unfortunately we didn’t do it,” Rooney said. “And in a lot of ways, that’s how you win close games. You’ve got to get two-out RB’Is.”

Both runs for UCF were driven in by first baseman D.J. Hicks. The two RBI give Hicks 68 on the season, which ranks first in the conference, and second in the nation.

Rice starter John Simms gave the Owls a strong outing, as the righty went five and a third innings, allowing six hits and just one run. With the win, Simms improves his regular season record to 5-0. Reigning C-USA hitter of the week, Ford Stainback, went 4-for-4 in the game, scoring a run, and driving one in as well.

The series drew more fans, 6,601, than any other UCF home series in school history.

Both UCF and Rice will travel to Pearl, Mississippi next week as they prepare for the C-USA championship tournament. The Owls and Knights will be ranked first and second respectively in the four-day, double elimination tournament.