ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) – Behind a valiant performance by junior RHP Ben Lively, and clutch hitting by redshirt senior Erik Hempe and sophomore JoMarcos Woods, the UCF baseball team opened its weekend set as 3-0 winners against Winthrop on Friday night.
Lively, who improved his record to 3-0 on the year, went eight innings and scattered six hits with nine strikeouts in the longest effort of his career since he pitched a complete game against Wagner on March 12, 2011. He got the game-winning runs on back-to-back two-out RBI singles from Hempe and Woods in the eighth.
Head coach Terry Rooney couldn’t be more pleased with the junior’s outing and the added clutch hitting by his 1-2 batters in the lineup.
“Obviously Ben pitched great, and that is a Friday night game in college baseball in a lot of places and in a lot of venues tonight,” Rooney said. “Their pitcher (Matt Pierpont) did a great job. He and Ben went pitch-for-pitch the whole night, and that’s what it takes on Friday night.
“We got the big two-out hit that got the game-winning run by Hempe. I thought overall the guys hung in there. I just told them this is what it’s going to be like most Fridays coming up.”
The Knights (5-4) and Eagles (3-6) will take the field Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. Fans who attend the men’s basketball game against Memphis at 1 p.m. will receive free admission upon arrival to the ballpark.
From the opening pitch, both Lively and Pierpont were locked in a duel, as the sub 1.00-ERA righties exchanged scoreless frame after scoreless frame.
In the top of the first, Lively worked himself out of an early jam by getting a timely 4-6-3 double play to end the frame. He got another fine assist in the field when shortstop Tommy Williams showed off his ups to snag a liner out of the air for the second out of the third inning.
After failing to record a hit for nearly three innings, Winthrop managed three two-out singles to load the bases in the top of the sixth. Facing pinch-hitter Jace Whitely, Lively showed off his moxie by striking out the sophomore third baseman on four pitches with the home dugout erupting after he stranded three Eagles on the base paths.
Lively would return in the seventh and needed just five pitches to get the Eagles out of the frame. He once again got a huge defensive play from his infield as senior 3B Chris Taladay started the 5-4-3 double play to end the inning on Lively’s 100th pitch.
In the eighth, the Gulf Breeze native trotted back out on the mound and once again turned to his defense as first baseman James Vasquez started the 3-6-3 double play to get Lively out of the frame on his 115th pitch.
Picking up their ace, the Knights’ offense manufactured three runs all with two outs after Jeramy Matos coaxed a one-out 3-2 walk. The senior would be lifted for pinch runner Erik Barber. The sophomore from Lakeland promptly stole second base prior to Williams taking first after being plunked by Pierpont.
Looking for the Knights’ first hit since the third inning, Hempe came through in the clutch by sending the 1-0 pitch up the middle to score Barber and the go-ahead run. After UCF knocked Pierpont out of the contest, Woods made reliever Mitchell Knox pay by shooting a single through the right side to plate a pair of teammates and make it 3-0.
Redshirt sophomore RHP Spencer Davis would enter the contest and close out the Eagles by inducing a grounder to second baseman Austin Johnston to secure his second save of the season.
Season tickets can be purchased by calling 407-UCF-1000 or visit the baseball tickets page. Stay up-to-date on all the latest news by visiting UCFAthletics.com and following the team on Twitter (@UCF_Baseball) and Facebook.