Pitching key for Knights
Set to compete in this week’s C-USA tournament, the Knights will need pitching staff to propel team
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 16:05
The No. 16 UCF pitching staff has some unique characters.
Take junior closer Joe Rogers, for example. His walk up song is “Jump Around,” by the ‘90s group House of Pain, and Rogers stars in a YouTube video in which he is imitating a pilot on a Southwest flight.
It’s not only his unique personality that sets Rogers apart, though. What he does out on the field certainly helps, too.
Rogers has had a great year so far, racking up 12 saves in 38 1/3 innings. Recently, he broke an 11-year program record when Rogers recorded a save for the Knights for the 28th time in his career, passing Jason Arnold’s mark of 27 career saves.
“It was kind of news to me [breaking a career record],” Rogers said. “It is something that is pretty special. But I was trying not to think about it when I was up there on the mound.”
It was announced on Monday that Rogers (4-1, 1.64 ERA) would be honored as part of the All-Conference USA First Team.
Rogers’ teammate, Ben Lively, was also named to the All C-USA Second Team. The sophomore has been in and out of the weekend rotation all season long. Lively has openly admitted that he has struggled with maintaining a good attitude, letting it get the best of him at times. Still, the right hander has slowly worked himself out of the bullpen and holds an 8-2 record and 3.37 ERA.
“The only reason I got bumped out of the rotation is because my attitude was all messed up,” Lively said. “I’ve got to keep it the same as it is right now.”
Freshman Eric Skoglund will join 10 others in program history to be named to the league’s All-Freshman Team. Skoglund has a 5-1 record with a 2.01 ERA, and he will start for the Knights in the team’s first C-USA tournament game on Thursday.
The success of these three pitchers underlines an important theme: that pitching will be key going forward. With the regular season in UCF’s rear-view mirror, the Knights are now staring down the postseason and the program’s ultimate goal.
“I can tell you that the pedal is to the medal with me,” head coach Terry Rooney said. “I am not stopping. I will keep pushing every aspect to get this program to Omaha, [Neb., site of the College World Series].”
The road to that goal runs through Pearl, Miss., this week. A town of roughly 25,000, Pearl is home to Trustmark Park, where the C-USA tournament will be played. The league’s top eight teams will face off for five days to see who is still standing on Sunday.
The eight teams are divided into two pods, according to the seed number.
Pod One will consist of No. 1-seed Rice, No. 4-seed Southern Miss, No. 5-seed Memphis and No. 8-seed Houston.
Pod Two will consist of No. 2-seed UCF, No. 3-seed Tulane, No. 6-seed East Carolina and No. 7-seed UAB.
UCF will open the tournament on Thursday at noon against UAB. The Knights faced the Blazers in an early-April weekend series, taking two of three games. UAB beat UCF, 11-4, in the first game, but the Knights rallied, winning the last two games, 7-3 and 8-7.
Next, UCF will face Tulane at 4 p.m. on Friday. The Knights swept Tulane on the road in late April, winning three one-run decisions.
UCF will wrap up pool play against East Carolina. The two rivals will play at noon on Saturday. The Knights hosted the Pirates in late March and took the weekend series after snatching victories in the first two games, 2-1 and 10-6, before dropping the third game, 15-6.
Each team will play three games, and the best teams in the respective pods will face off in the championship game on Sunday. The winner of that game receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
CBS Sports will televise the championship game on Sunday, set to air live at 2 p.m.