Baseball preview: Columbia series next for Knights
Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 16:03
Baseball head coach Terry Rooney has constantly preached what the theme of the season has been — winning the last three innings and bouncing back.
Because the Knights didn't win the last three innings on Wednesday against USF, they have to bounce back on Friday to start their Columbia series.
"We've got to do two things: We've got to keep playing every single pitch of every single game, there's games never over, and we need to win the last three," said head coach Terry Rooney.
Three of UCF's four losses have been close; two have been by one run and one was by two in 10 innings. Of UCF's three one-run games, the Knights have won just one.
"We have to win the one-run games. We have to learn how to do that," Rooney said. "That's the difference in college baseball. At the end of the year, that's the difference in several wins."
UCF meets Columbia on Friday for the first time since 2005, when the Knights beat the Lions twice.
When the Lions arrive at Jay Bergman Field to face the Knights, they will have played a game a day for a week. After Sunday's game, Columbia will have played 10 games in 10 days, with wins over South Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast in that stretch. The Lions also have wins against Central Michigan and Illinois.
Junior transfer Danny Winkler has earned the Friday-night start job. The righty is 3-0 in four starts and has struck out 30 batters in 22-1/3 innings.
Ben Lively became the first UCF freshman to throw a complete game since Mitch Houck did it in 2006. All season long, Rooney has stressed that pitchers need to get further into games. Lively did just that on March 12, when he had his third start and earned his third win. The freshman owns a team-best ERA at 0.43 and seems to have the Saturday starting position on lock.
Matt Collins and Ray Hanson are likely the two up for the final spot in the weekend rotation. Collins, who has started two games, is out on rest for a slight forearm strain. Hanson, however, stepped up in the Sunday game vs. Wagner and tossed a complete game for his first win of the season. He didn't walk a batter and only gave up one run off of six hits in his nine innings.
What to watch for
— Power. First baseman Jonathan Griffin is proving that the power hitters will hit home runs. In the past five games, he has hit three blasts; he's tied at four for the most home runs on the team. Before Griffin's home run against Boston College on March 9, his only homer came on his first at-bat of the season. Griffin's solo shot against USF was the first run of the game for either team. In Game Three against Wagner, Griffin's two-run homer won the game for the Knights.
— Ronnie Richardson, the every-day center fielder, made his college pitching debut to close out Game One of the Wagner series. In his debut, Richardson struck out two of the four batters he faced. Look for a possible center field change when the Knights need someone to close out a game.
— Travis Shreve has stolen a team-high 15 bases this season.
— No errors. The Knights haven't committed an error in three consecutive games and they haven't had an error in 11 of their 17 games.
— The Columbia series ends UCF's 13-game homestand.