ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) – After just eight hits combined in its last two games, the UCF baseball team broke out for 14 on its way to a 12-7 series-clinching win over Winthrop on Saturday. The Knights (6-4) will go for their first sweep of the season Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
Senior second baseman Austin Johnston (2-for-4) tied his career-high with three RBI while 1B James Vasquez (2-for-4, 2 RBI) and LF Jeramy Matos (1-for-4, 3 RBI) both went yard in the same game for the third time this season. Redshirt senior LHP Chris Matulis tossed three frames of one-hit ball with six strikeouts in relief for his first win of the year.
“One big positive today was offensively we were better throughout the day,” head coach Terry Rooney said. “We are still a little bit inconsistent, but we took advantage of a few mistakes. The key now is to get it spread out (hits in the lineup) from 1-9.”
UCF would not wait to get on the scoreboard Saturday as JoMarcos Woods (2-for-5) dropped a ball into shallow left field and turned it in to a pure-hustle double, his first of the year. By putting himself into scoring position, the Orlando native would score the first run of the game on a Chris Taladay (2-for-3, 1 RBI) single into center.
The Knights would make Winthrop pay once again in the bottom of the third after the Eagles (3-7) intentionally walked Taladay, with RF Erik Hempe (2-for-4, 1 RBI) already on second, to get Johnston. The senior sent his 0-1, two-out pitch down the left-field line into the corner for a two-run double to make it 3-0.
Winthrop would score its first runs of the series in the top of the fourth after a lead-off double led to a Clay Altman RBI single through the right side. The Eagles would pile on with three-straight bloop singles in the frame, all with one out, but starter Danny Davis buckled down and got a swinging strikeout followed by a fly out to Woods that was just four feet from leaving the park.
In the fifth, Davis wouldn’t be able to make it through the frame after a pair of defensive lapses in the field led to a two-out RBI single. A passed ball would bring in one more Eagle to make it 4-3 prior to the inning coming to a close.
UCF responded in the bottom-half of the frame in a big way, plating five runs on three hits, one error and sent 10 to the plate to take the lead for good.
After Hempe took a lead-off walk, and advanced to third on a Woods single through the right side, the Anaheim would come around to score on a wild pitch before Johnston struck again with a bloop RBI single into shallow right field.
The monster inning continued when Matos executed perfectly on his 3-0 green-light swing for a three-run homer over the left-center fence to break open the game at 8-4. The Lake Worth native now has four dingers on the year, including two of the three-run variety.
UCF added insurance runs in the eighth behind Vasquez’s fourth long ball of the year. After Taladay scored on a passed ball, Vasquez smashed a 3-2 pitch over the right-field fence to give him 12 RBI on the season.
Coming in during the sixth, Matulis brought a calming presence and his nasty repertoire of pitches to secure the game on the mound. The Boynton Beach native struck out six while using 42 pitches, and now owns 17 punchouts on the year.
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