The UCF baseball team got off to one of the best starts in program history. Now, they've lost six of their last 11 games.
UCF started the season 10-0, had wins over multiple ranked opponents, was ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation and didn't even lose back to back contests until their 18th game of the season. Now, after losing two of three at Cincinnati last weekend, the Knights are 24-10 and 3-3 in the conference.
At this point, over halfway through the season, UCF is still in fine shape to accomplish its main goal for the season: get an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament. As it moves forward however, it is going to be harder and harder for UCF to accomplish the loftier goal of hosting an NCAA regional.
Florida, Miami and Florida State, three teams geographically in contention with UCF to host a regional, are all ranked higher than UCF in the USA Today Coaches Poll. But you don't need to host a regional to go to Omaha.
And the last 11 games, where they lost six out of 11, hardly constitute a slide, and can easily be overcome, as conference play has still just started.
This weekend UCF hosts UCONN, which is 19-11 (3-3) this season. After that they have a big midweek contest at Miami.
One of the deciding factors for the rest of UCF's schedule will be how the Knights fare against USF, because they play them in not one series, but two. They'll first host the Bulls in Orlando May 1-3, and then travel to Tampa Bay for the last regular season series of the year, May 14-16.
USF is 22-10-1 overall so far this season, but first in the conference, at 5-1. Last season the Knights took two of three from USF in Tampa.
So far this year, UCF has been carried by its offense. As of last weekend, the Knights are seventh in the country and first in the conference in batting average, first in the nation in home runs and first in the conference in on base and slugging.
The problems for UCF have come on the mound. They're second to last in team ERA, at 4.86, third to last in opponent's batting average, and have walked the most batters in the AAC.
The Knights have 10 pitchers with ERAs over five, and five pitchers who have walked more batters than they have struck out. That's not a recipe for success.
Throwing strikes was one of the main problems for UCF last season, and early on it appeared like they were going to be much improved in that category this year, now, it looks like it may be an issue again.
The good news for the Knights? The offense continues to go, showing no signs of slowing down. Now, if they can work out some kinks on the mound, then two months from now, during NCAA Tournament, there's a very good chance we'll be watching the Black and Gold.
Colin Bell is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.