Lost Rice series may be root of Knights’ regionals success
Published: Monday, June 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, June 4, 2012 09:06
Coaches love their clichés, and more often than not coaches’ speak is just that – talk.
So when Terry Rooney said two weeks ago that his ball club was going to be better for dropping two of three games to the visiting Rice Owls, with the Conference USA regular season championship on the line, it may have seemed to some like the standard “light out of the darkness” motivational technique.
Maybe it was, too. But through two games of the Coral Gables Regional, with Rooney’s Knights literally “on the road to Omaha,” you can’t help but think there was some merit to the statement.
UCF scraped out two one-run victories on Friday and Saturday, putting the team in prime position to advance to a Super Regional for the first time in school history.
What has been most impressive about this ball club so far in the postseason is that when the usual momentum killers reared their ugly heads, the Knights haven’t given in.
When Joe Rogers loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning against Missouri State in Friday’s regional opener, the game tied at 1-1, it seemed like certain death not just for the game, but for UCF’s season. Dropping the first game in double-elimination format creates a scenario where a team must win four games in three days without losing – no small task.
Somehow, Rogers survived, and the Knights won the game, 2-1.
While Saturday’s game was also a one-run game, UCF overcame a whole different scenario, allowing big leads to evaporate not once, but twice. Twice, Stony Brook rallied from multi-run deficits and regained all of the momentum and twice it looked as though the Seawolves were primed to take the lead.
In truth, Stony Brook was mere inches from probably winning Saturday’s game when the ball left William Carmona’s bat heading for the right-field wall. That’s when right fielder Alex Friedrich, guided by center fielder Ronnie Richardson, went all the way to the warning track and the against the wall hauled in the long fly ball, preventing the tying run from scoring.
In a game where the two three-run home runs the Knights launched appears to be the easy storyline, perhaps the real one was the defensive achievements. UCF played error-free baseball, and more than once it was glove work that got the Knights out of innings and jams, if not necessarily the pitching.
Rooney talked about his club needing to get just a little bit better across the board after the Rice series. So far in regionals, the place where it literally matters the most, it would seem the Knights are making strides toward doing that.
So much for just being coaches’ speak.