Junior RHP Jason Bahr had a tough outing against the Siena Saints in his first ever collegiate start in game three of opening weekend. After fixing his fastball and taking command of the strike-zone on Sunday afternoon for his second career start, Bahr found pitching to be a far easier task.
Going 5 1/3 innings, Bahr struck out nine batters, allowed two hits and walks, while giving up only one run. But the third man in the Knights’ rotation wasn’t fortunate enough to earn his first win as the bullpen struggled to retire the final two outs in the top of the sixth inning. Instead, UCF (7-0) would have to battle again on offense and utilize a bases loaded, three-RBI double by senior second baseman Ryan Crile, to sweep Manhattan (0-3) and stay undefeated heading into it’s matchup with No.2 Florida.
“I had a lot less nerves than I did my first start,” Bahr said. “My arm was feeling really good, it just kind of all came together.”
Bahr in his first start of the season only managed to go four innings while giving up five hits and two runs.
“Today, he was much better,” head coach Greg Lovelady said. “He only elevated when he was supposed to. He got some big strike outs on elevated fastballs. He was much better with his control. He had much better fastball command and was able to mix in some sliders which is good to see for him. He set the tone and we kept the pitching domination going.”
Bahr had an exceptional start but eventually had to come out of game due to his pitching limit.
“We bumped him up to 70-75 and he was at 76 so he was coming out of the game no matter what,” Lovelady said.
Other Knights that made it on the mound included redshirt junior RHP Jordan Scheftz, senior LHP Drew Faintich, sophomore RHP Thaddeus Ward, freshman RHP Rylan Thomas and closer, sophomore LHP Bryce Tucker.
“The guys have really carried us and are giving us a chance to win every game,” Lovelady said. “Justin Parker has done a phenomenal job with this group of pitchers.”
Manhattan continuously struggled to get any players past second base until the sixth inning when they kept the bases loaded for multiple plays. An error at first base and Manhattan getting walked allowed them to tie the game at 2-2. Ward came in at the end of the sixth inning to strike out Manhattan’s Jason Patnick which was a crucial play for the Knights.
Crile showed up offensively for the Knights with a double to left field in the sixth inning that brought home three runs to take back the lead over the Jaspers.
“Coming up in a clutch situation like that, I was just trying to stay calm and do my job and get the runners in,” Crile said.
Kyle Marsh then added to the Knights’ momentum when he hit a double right down the left field line that brought senior infielder Luke Hamblin home. Marsh continued to steal third after a wild pitch and then pinch runner Josh Moser ran home to extend the Knights lead over the Jaspers 7-2.
Coach Lovelady commended Marsh, Hamblin and Crile on their offensive work in today’s game, but hopes to see the team’s offense improve over the course of the season.
“I thought we played well late in the game,” Lovelady said. “I thought we slept-walked a little early in the game. We’ve got to get better offensively.”
Looking into next week, UCF will take on Florida for the team’s biggest test this season thus far.
“It’s a good challenge,” Lovelady said. “It’s a good chance for us to grade ourselves out against one of the best teams in the country. We will get some real life answers to see how good we are and what we need to work on.”
Taya Britten is a contributor for the Central Florida Focus. You can follow her on Twitter at @tayabritten and you can email the sports team at EvanA@centralfloridafocus.com.