June 5, 2011
UCF vs. Alabama
June 5, 2011
|From Tallahassee, Fla.
WP: Smart (5-3), 8.0 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
LP: Cicio (4-3), 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Still a close game at 6-4 in the seventh, Joe Rogers got Andrew Miller to ground into a possible inning-ending double play with a runner at first, however the defense misplayed it to keep the inning going. And Alabama went on to plate six unearned runs to stay alive in the NCAA Tournament.
First: ALA SS Jared Reaves, 3-for-5, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2B
Second: ALA SP Jonathan Smart, WP, 8.0 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 1 K
Third: ALA CF Taylor Dugas, 2-for-4, 3 RBI, 2 R, HR
By Brian Ormiston
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Alabama broke a 4-4 tie in the fifth and scored nine total unearned runs to defeat UCF, 12-5, Sunday in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional. The loss ended the Knights' highly-successful season in which it reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004 and also recorded their best finish in the Conference USA standings (fourth) since joining the league in 2006.
UCF completed its 2011 season with a 39-23 record, marking its best year since the 2005 campaign where it went 42-18. The Black and Gold had a .307 batting average, finished with a 4.14 team ERA which was the lowest ERA dating back to 2005 (3.99), posted a school record 17 saves and had the fewest amount of walks (179) since 2000. And even though the Knights had three errors Sunday, they also set the school record with a .978 fielding percentage and only 53 errors in 62 games.
"First and foremost I'd like to congratulate Alabama on advancing, they played very well today," said head coach Terry Rooney. "Unfortunately today wasn't our day. We did not play very good fundamental baseball which is uncharacteristic of us.
"But regardless of the outcome today, I'm extremely proud of this group of players. These guys have so much to be proud of and what they have accomplished as a team in bringing UCF baseball back to the NCAA Regionals after seven years. It's an unbelievable group of guys who I feel for right now. I know their ultimate goal was to get to Omaha but one game unfortunately doesn't make a season. I want them to continue to focus on the bigger picture. They have a lot to be proud of and they represented UCF tremendously right to the very end."
Senior Jonathan Griffin ended his UCF career by ranking tied for sixth in Knights' history with 32 homers, and he accomplished that feat in only two seasons in Black and Gold. He also fell two home runs shy (19) of matching Chris Duffy (21 in 2010) for the single-season record. In three games in the NCAA Regionals, Griffin went 7-for-13 with three doubles, a triple and a homer while driving in five.
Redshirt sophomore D.J. Hicks, who hit third and one spot ahead of Griffin in the order most of the season, was 6-for-12 in the NCAA Tournament, including hitting a solo home run in the ninth inning Sunday. It was his 14th of the season as he went on to lead UCF in 2011 with a .351 batting average and 66 RBI.
Senior reliever Nick Cicio kept UCF in the game after Alabama scored four runs in the first. The southpaw allowed just one run (unearned) in 5.0 innings of work, striking out six and surrendering only five hits. But that unearned run on a passed ball in the fifth forced Cicio to serve as the losing pitcher.
In his second and final season as a Knight, Cicio capped off 2011 with a 2.23 ERA, a 4-3 record, four saves and 56 strikeouts in 60.2 innings. Classmate Johnny Sedlock was just as impressive, going 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA, striking out 31 and walking only five in 36.0 innings on the hill. Overall, senior Chase Bradford and sophomore Brian Adkins led all pitchers with six wins this year.
Facing Alabama's Jonathan Smart who had 11 saves but made six starts before Sunday, UCF jumped on the lefty with a one-out triple off the right-field fence by Beau Taylor and a quick sacrifice fly from Hicks. Griffin looked to add another run with a shot to the deepest part of the park in left-center, and center fielder Taylor Dugas could not make the play to allow Griffin to race around for a triple. However the first baseman was unable to score to double the lead.
With some early momentum and battling a team which did not have a lot of time to recover following its late game Saturday vs. Florida State, UCF's 1-0 advantage did not last long. The Crimson Tide busted out in the bottom of the first vs. freshman Ben Lively, who was making his first start since April 23. The home team put the first five on base, highlighted by a homer from Dugas and a crucial error on a potential double play. Alabama would go on to score four runs, two unearned, as Cicio had to come in from the pen to get out of the inning.
Similar to Saturday's victory over Bethune-Cookman where the Knights immediately answered the Wildcats' four-run inning, UCF attempted to duplicate its feat in the second inning. With the bases juiced and one out, Ronnie Richardson grounded into a RBI fielder's choice yet that was all they could produce in the stanza. An inning later, the Knights got the first two aboard again and only mustered a run on a RBI single by Erik Hempe.
Trailing 4-3, Cicio worked into one-out trouble in the third as Alabama had runners at second and third, and the southpaw promptly struck out the next two batters to keep it a one-run game. That proved to be a huge performance on the mound since the Knights were able to tie it up in the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Taylor, plating Travis Shreve.
The Crimson Tide tried again to reply in their next trip to the dish, and this time could not score with the bases jammed as Cicio induced Jared Reaves to ground into an inning-ending double play with the count full. But Alabama filled the bags for the second-straight inning in the fifth and took the lead on a two-out passed ball.
When Cicio's day was complete, Bradford took the hill to begin the sixth and a close call at first gave way to another Alabama run. On a possible inning-ending double play, the throw from second to first was ruled to have pulled Griffin off the bag, and following a balk, Austen Smith singled in Reaves to stretch their lead to 6-4.
And Alabama would put the game away by taking advantage of another fielding miscue in the seventh with Joe Rogers toeing the rubber, as UCF kept the inning alive by botching a potential double play with one out to enable the Tide to score six unearned runs.
No. 2 UCF - 39-23 Overall
No. 3 Alabama - 35-27 Overall
-Alabama advances to face No. 1 seed Florida State Sunday at 6 p.m. If the Seminoles win, they will advance to Super Regionals, while if the Crimson Tide pick up a victory, the deciding game between the two programs will be played Monday at 6 p.m.
-UCF fell to 14-20 all-time NCAA Tournament games.
-D.J. Hicks recorded his seventh sacrifice fly of the year Sunday, which ranks in a tie for fifth on the single-season list.
-Catcher Beau Taylor threw out his 19th and 20th runners on the bases. They also were the 57th and 58th runners caught stealing in three seasons as a Knight.
-At least two Knights reached base in each of the first five innings.