NEW ORLEANS, La. (UCFAthletics.com) - Championship Sunday went just as planned for the No. 10 UCF baseball team as it completed the series sweep of Tulane with an 8-6 win on a beautiful afternoon from Turchin Stadium. This is the fifth series sweep for the Knights (34-8, 12-3) since joining Conference USA, with four coming on the road.
With the victory, UCF takes sole possession of first place in the league standings and ties the school record for most conference wins (12) with nine league contents remaining. The Knights also improved to 12-2 on the road and 9-1 on Sundays.
"Anytime you can sweep a series it is a tremendous accomplishment, and to do it on the road in this environment against a very good Tulane team - the guys deserve all the credit," UCF head coach Terry Rooney said. "I felt like we had poise and confidence all weekend and never panicked. What an accomplishment by an unbelievable group of 27 guys committed to finishing it up."
Third baseman Chris Taladay provided serious pop in the lineup for the Knights, who totaled 11 hits in the game. The Windermere native smashed three doubles for four RBI in his 10th three-hit game of the year. Senior Travis Shreve also upped his team-leading batting average (.360) with a 3-for-4 contest while extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
Starter Ray Hanson pushed his season record to 4-1 after going five innings and allowing four hits and two runs while striking out a pair. It's the second-straight Sunday win for the Long Beach, Calif., native.
UCF will have no midweek games as it is finals week on campus. The Knights return to action at 6:30 p.m. Friday with Memphis in town for a three-game set. It will be Military Appreciation Night with free admission plus one complimentary ticket available at the gate for active duty, retired and civilian military personnel with a military I.D.
Out of the gates on Sunday, UCF wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard with its 42nd first-inning run on a Taladay double ripped to the right-center gap. That scores Ronnie Richardson after he led the game off with a walk and his 17th stolen base of the season.
Taladay struck again in his second plate appearance with a clutch two-run, two-out double through the first baseman's glove down the right-field line to score D.J. Hicks (1-for-2, 1 RBI) and Darnell Sweeney(2-for-5).
Hanson's greatest test came in the bottom of the fourth after he hit a batter, allowed a bloop double that dropped in on the right-field line and walked the following Green Wave hitter. With the bases loaded, Hanson got Frank Florio to send a ball to Sweeney at short who stepped on second and fired to first for the inning-ending double play.
The UCF offense responded in the top of the fifth with three more runs while stealing three bags in the frame. Hicks drove in Shreve on his eighth sacrifice fly of the year for RBI No. 56 and Sweeney and Alex Friedrich both scored from third on back-to-back wild pitches to give the Knights a 6-0 advantage.
Big boppers Hicks and Taladay continued their strong afternoons with back-to-back doubles to lead off the seventh inning. Taladay entered the game with 59 hits, and just six of the extra-base variety, before his three-double performance.
Tulane once again attempted a late-inning comeback on the Knights with four runs, all on singles, in the bottom of the seventh to make it an 8-6 game. Lefty Jimmy Reed entered the game to get the final out of the frame and pitched a perfect eighth inning to hold the UCF lead.
Junior righty Roman Madrid came in and promptly closed out the ninth inning for his third save of the season while lowering his ERA to 0.30 in 30 innings of work with 34 strikeouts.
News & Notes: -Tulane never led in the series -UCF has swept six weekend series, the most since 2004 (7) -It was the 25th game this year with 10-plus hits and 12th in C-USA play -With eight SAC flies on the year, Hicks is tied for third all-time in a season and three away from the record shared by Dee Brown and Mark Maloney (11) -UCF has now won five of its last six at Tulane -The Knights took the lead in the all-time series, 14-13 -Richardson has now stolen 12, 15 and 17 bases so far in his three seasons on campus