Junior Right-handed pitcher, Juan Pimentel, the newly projected Championship Sunday starter, earned his spot as the number three pitcher in the UCF rotation as the Knights won the series against AAC rival, the USF Bulls, in a 6-5 Sunday afternoon triumph.
After junior right-handed pitcher Robby Howell evened the series with a strong performance including a no-hitter he carried for 6 2/3 innings on Saturday afternoon, the Knights came into Sunday's game ready for a much needed win to keep them on the right track for conference play.
"He's had quality starts all the way," head coach Terry Rooney said. "When you look back at this series, they're tough. This team is tough."
Despite the Bulls starting things off in the first inning with three runs, Pimentel had a strong performance, allowing only one more run throughout the night. It wasn't until the third inning that the Knights started battling offensively.
With runners on first and second and no outs, junior outfielder Luke Hamblin drove in a run with a single to right field. Then after a fly ball was caught for the second out, junior middle infielder Ryan Crile, was hit in the back, and he walked to first to load the bases. Junior catcher Matt Diorio would then work the count and also walk, bringing in one of his two RBI's of the night.
Some good defense and pitching by both teams and a couple innings later, UCF would take the lead after trailing 3-2. Diorio would smack a double into the left-center field gap, bringing home the tying run. Then junior middle infielder Kam Gellinger came to the plate and knocked in a RBI off a single to right field, allowing the Knights to take a 4-3 lead.
"It was a big weekend for us, pitching wise. Whatever happens, we just have to get ready to step up and get ready for Tulane," junior right-handed pitcher Trent Thompson said. "The composure of this team is phenomenal."
USF would give the Knights one of two more challenges when in the sixth inning, designated hitter Luke Borders, launched a home run over the right field fence. Being tied at four, UCF was able to tack on two more runs in the eighth inning thanks to a one-out single up the middle by junior outfielder Eugene Vazquez. Freshman third baseman Matthew Mika would then drive in a run of his own to close out the scoring for UCF.
"I was dealing with a broken wrists and I just came back and I had to do what I had to do to try and help the team out," Mika said.
In one last ditched effort by USF, the Bulls loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth inning. Two fly balls later to the edge of the right field foul line in shallow territory, the Bulls fell 6-5, only able to score one of the two runs they needed.
"What a win," Rooney said. "What a series. I couldn't be more proud of these guys. In every fashion of how they did it, I couldn't be more proud as a coach."
The Knights (20-18, 5-4 AAC) will travel to Jacksonville on Tuesday to take on UNF at 6 p.m.
Evan Abramson is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. You can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Abramson and email him at EvanA@centralfloridafuture.com.