Knights earn No. 2 seed in Miami regional
Published: Monday, May 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 28, 2012 16:05
The UCF baseball team anxiously waited at Moat Sports Grille Monday afternoon, ready to learn where the No. 16 Knights will be headed for regionals.
The room exploded with cheers after it was announced that UCF will be heading down to South Florida this week to take place in the Coral Gables Regional, hosted by the Miami Hurricanes.
“It is an outstanding and very competitive regional, and we are excited to have the opportunity to play,” head coach Terry Rooney said.
The Knights, the No. 2 seed in the regional, will have to face off against No. 1 Miami, No. 3 Missouri State and No. 4 Stony Brook in their quest to make it to Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series.
UCF (43-15) will face the Missouri State Bears (39-20) for the first game, set to start Friday at 2 p.m.
“We’ve had great fan support this past year,” shortstop Darnell Sweeney said. “A lot of our fans traveled with us, and now this is just a three-hour drive so I don’t see no reason why we can’t have a good fan support down in Miami.”
The regional round of the NCAA Tournament operates in a double-elimination format and will run from Friday through Monday, June 4. The Coral Gables winner will face the winner of Baton Rouge Regional in the Super Regionals.
The Hurricanes are the only team in the regional that UCF faced this year. Miami and UCF split a pair of games during the regular season, with the road team winning each game in the home-and-home series. In the most recent meeting, UCF traveled to Coral Gables and took care of the Hurricanes, 4-1.
“I’m excited to play Missouri State, and obviously Miami is good,” first baseman D.J. Hicks said. “For me, personally, I love playing there [at Miami]. The ball flies so you don’t have to swing quite as hard.”
Missouri State has struggled lately, having only won five of its last 11 games. The Bears do, however, have a team ERA of 2.51, which ranks as second-best in the country.
Stony Brook (46-11) secured its place in this year’s tournament by winning the America East Conference.
The Seawolves rank second in the nation with 46 victories and have the top winning percentage in Division I at .807. Stony Brook is currently on an 11-game winning streak and has won 22 of its last 23 games.
Monday’s announcement gave the program something to be excited about after the Knights did not advance past pool play in the Conference USA Tournament last week.
While the Knights were successful in their second and third games of pool play, defeating Tulane and East Carolina, the 15-1 beating they took at the hands of UAB kept them out of Sunday’s championship game. The Blazers, who advanced out of UCF’s pod, eventually won the conference title, defeating Memphis, 5-0, on Sunday.
“Obviously there was the [fifth inning] there that gave it away when they scored all those runs,” Rooney said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make the pitches that we needed to. We were consistently behind in the count and up in the zone.”
The embarrassing loss prolonged a three-game losing streak, one that started with two losses to the then-No. 5 Rice Owls to end the regular season. The three-game skid was the Knights’ longest of the season.
Rooney’s club showed some resiliency on Friday and Saturday when it bounced back by winning its next two games and outscoring its opponents, 17-3.