May 21, 2011
UCF vs. Marshall
May 21, 2011
|From Orlando, Fla.
WP: Bradford (6-1), 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
LP: Sikula (2-6), 6.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
With both pitchers dealing on the mound in a 1-1 game in the fifth inning, Marshall's Gray Stafford stood at second base with two outs. Isaac Ballou then sent a grounder up the middle that second baseman Travis Shreve dove to keep on the infield. By snagging it, Shreve kept Stafford from scoring, and now with runners at the corners, Chase Bradford forced Kenny Socorro to ground out to end the inning. UCF then scored two in the bottom half to take control of the game.
First: UCF SP Chase Bradford, WP, 7.0 IP, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 K
Second: UCF 1B Jonathan Griffin, 3-for-4, 2 HR
Third: UCF SS Darnell Sweeney, 2-for-4, 2 RBI, HR
By Brian Ormiston
Box Score in PDF Format
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Sending off the seniors in impressive fashion, UCF clobbered four homers in the seventh inning alone to take the series from Marshall (20-31, 7-17) with an 8-1 victory. Of the Knights' 11 total hits, five of them were of the home run variety as they completed the regular season with a 36-20 record and a 12-12 mark in Conference USA.
UCF is now guaranteed either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in next week's C-USA Championship presented by Trustmark, as day one is scheduled for Wednesday in Pearl, Miss. The Knights will play at 10 a.m. ET against Memphis in the first game of the event. Later Saturday, if Memphis loses to Houston, UCF will be the No. 4 seed and the Tigers will be the No. 5 seed. And if the Cougars defeat the Tigers, those seeds will be reversed.
Joining UCF in its four-team pool will be No. 1 Rice and No. 8 UAB. In the other section of the bracket, No. 2 Southern Miss, No. 3 East Carolina, No. 6/7 Houston and No. 6/7 Tulane will be grouped together. Each team in the same pool will play each other once May 25-27, and the winner of each pool will meet in the championship game May 28.
"It was a great win today. And the guys certainly bounced back (from Thursday's loss) to play two outstanding ballgames," said head coach Terry Rooney. "Chase Bradford threw a tremendous ballgame. He did a great job, and it probably was his best outing of his career here at UCF. This was an awesome way for our seniors to go out. The entire team wanted to go out on a strong note for all of our seniors. They are a great group of guys, and it's exciting to see them have their most successful year since they came to UCF."
The 12-12 league record for the Black and Gold is its best in conference play since 2005 when it went 19-11 in the Atlantic Sun. And if the Knights finish in either fourth or fifth place, it will still be their best showing in the C-USA standings since joining the league in 2006.
A total of 10 seniors competed in their final home game Saturday and they were honored before first pitch: Alex Besaw, J.M. Blake, Bradford, Nick Cicio, Brennan Dobbins, Jonathan Griffin, Michael Holmes, Derek Luciano, Johnny Sedlock and Kevin Vasquez.
And Bradford, a native of Henderson, Nev., put on a dynamic display in front of his parents, who were watching their son pitch for the Knights for the first time since he came to UCF last season. The right-hander matched a career-high with 7.0 innings and struck out a personal-best nine batters. He held the Herd to just one run on seven hits and did not walk a batter.
"Marshall has a great offense, but coach Rooney told us what to do today and that was to put them away with two strikes, and I was able to do that ," said Bradford, who improved to 6-1 on the season. "I was more worried about the heat (than pitching in front of my family). I'm tired now. I've got to go sit in the cold tub for about half an hour."
Giving Bradford plenty of run support, UCF's five homers were the most it put over the wall all season. And the four taters in the seventh inning set a school record for the most home runs in a single inning. During that memorable stanza, Darnell Sweeney, Ronnie Richardson and Beau Taylor went back-to-back-to-back, marking the first time in UCF history that three players hit homers in consecutive at-bats.
For Sweeney and Richardson, it was their first four-baggers of the 2011 campaign, while it was Taylor's fifth of the year. After that trio put on their show, Griffin, who homered in the sixth, delivered his second of the game two batters later in the seventh inning. The first baseman moved his career total to 29 in just two seasons as a Knight (ranks in a tie for seventh all-time), however it was the first time he had punished two balls over the fence in the same game in a Black and Gold uniform. For the 2011 season, Griffin moved his home-run total to 16, good for a tie for fourth on the UCF single-season chart.
Bradford made his seventh start of the year Saturday and witnessed Marshall score in the first on an infield single, a groundout and a RBI single from Rhett Stafford. The Knights retaliated in the bottom of the first without a hit as Taylor reached second on two errors from second baseman Victor Ramos, traveled to third on a wild pitch and touched home thanks to a sacrifice fly from D.J. Hicks.
Both Bradford and Marshall right-hander Arik Sikula would put up zeroes in the second, third and fourth innings to keep it at 1-1. And Bradford got some sensational defense in the fifth to keep it tied. With Gray Stafford at second and two outs, Isaac Ballou sent a groundball up the middle where second baseman Travis Shreve made a diving snag to prevent it from going to the outfield. The run-saving play made Stafford stop at third, and Bradford left both runners on base by inducing Kenny Socorro to groundout to Shreve.
The key defensive play led to a huge scoring opportunity for the Knights in the home half of the fifth. Following Erik Hempe's first-pitch single to left to start it up, Ryan Breen and Shreve helped load the bases on infield base hits. Still with nobody out, Darnell Sweeney lined a RBI single into center and Ronnie Richardson added a RBI on a fielder's choice.
In UCF's next trip to the batter's box, Griffin stretched the lead to 4-1 with one swing of the bat, ripping a solo homer over the right-center wall. And the Knights would finally put it away with that incredible four-run seventh inning.
Closing it out on the mound for Bradford, Cicio fanned a pair in 1.2 innings, and Dobbins, who returned for the first time after getting his appendix removed, struck out the final batter of the game.
Marshall - 20-31 Overall, 7-17 C-USA
UCF - 36-20 Overall, 12-12 C-USA
-With the home schedule complete, an average of 1,212 fans attended 31 home dates this year, setting a school record for single-game average in a season.
-The five home runs were the most by the Knights in a game dating back to May 20, 2010, at Tulane when it also went yard five times.
-Beau Taylor extended his hitting streak to 12 games Saturday.
-UCF made just one error in the entire series, and has only committed one error in the last 11 games combined.