UCF wins first-round game

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The big question entering UCF’s matchup against Missouri State was: Would the Knights be able to hit Nick Petree?

Ronnie Richardson answered that question with a leadoff home run, the first surrendered by Petree all season long, as UCF won the first game of the Coral Gables Regional 2-1.

“Ronnie Richardson is one of the best players in the country,” UCF head coach Terry Rooney said. “Ronnie Richardson is one of the most clutch players in the college baseball, and he rose up.”

Richardson scored both UCF runs, as the junior center fielder scored from second base on an eighth-inning Chris Taladay bloop single that fell in between three fielders.

“Ronnie is a quick guy, anything you can see up and hit – it was a change-up, and I was just trying to get some early action,” Taladay said.

Starter Ben Lively gave the Knights exactly what they were looking for – someone who could match Petree. The Sophomore labored through 5 2/3 shutout innings, throwing 113 pitches in the game. Lively allowed just three hits and struck out six Bears.

“(Richardon’s home run) pumped me up right away. I knew how the game was going to go, and it helped me get locked in for the whole game,” said Lively.

Other than the Richardson home run, Petree was fairly dominant throughout the game. The National Collegiate Baseball player of the year allowed just two runs on six hits, while striking out five in eight innings of work. Petree’s efficiency allowed him to pitch deep in the game as he kept his pitch count low, facing just 31 batters.

Roman Madrid entered the game for Lively in the sixth, immediately hit the next batter, but got out of the inning. Madrid got himself into a lot of trouble the next inning as he allowed one run on three hits, and was extremely fortunate that the inning ended on an MSU base running blunder.

MSU infielder Dylan Becker entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter and rocked Madrid for a double off of the left field wall. Becker later scored on a Kevin Medrano single through the right side of the infield. Alex Friedrich, who has made a name for himself with his stellar arm in right field, was unable to gun down Becker to keep the Bears scoreless.

Joe Rogers relieved Madrid in the eighth inning in a non-save situation. The all-time saves leader in UCF history allowed the first three batters the reach base without recording an out. His defense came up big as they bailed out the closer to help keep the score tied at one.

“Huge moment is an understatement,” Rooney said. “During the rain delay I was talking to some of the coaches and I said ‘That inning has the potential to go down as one of the greatest innings in the history of UCF baseball.”

Chris Matulis threw a dominant ninth inning for the Knights, as the momentum UCF carried into the final inning was halted by a 137 minute rain delay. Matulis struck out two batters on the way to his first save of the season.

The Knights now find themselves on the winner’s side of the bracket and will wait for the Miami – Stony Brook game to find out who their next opponent will be. UCF will face the winner of the match-up Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Rooney has yet to decide who will pitch for UCF tomorrow night, as he waits to find out who his opponent will be.