When redshirt sophomore Kyle Marsh stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the third with a 2-0 lead over No. 2 Florida in what was beginning to look like a pitching duel, a swing of his bat blasting a ball to deep left field eliminated any chance of a Florida sweep in an 11-2 victory.
And after freshman outfielder Austin Langworthy failed to rob Marsh’s homerun ball that flew by his glove by a couple of feet, the Knights (8-1) had no problem spending the next hour and a half catching the Gators from the plate, mound and field, beating its first ranked opponent at home since its victory over No. 15 Houston on March 29, 2015.
“I was seeing the ball very well,” Marsh said. “I just wanted to go up there and have a team at-bat and help my team out… it was great. I told [Sheridan] that my freshman year, I beat them too here so we have something in common.
The Knights, who lost a closely contested game the night before to Florida (7-2) after leaving 13 runners on base, made sure offense wouldn’t be a problem again. Supported by Marsh and his homerun, two doubles and six RBI’s, the Knights batted away as freshman LHP and Orlando-raised Joe Sheridan pitched away.
“I think yesterday we came out a little stiff, played like we weren’t sure that we belonged on the same field [as UF],” coach Greg Lovelady said. “Offensively, we did a way better job. Best offensive night we’ve had in terms of just taking good swings, controlled violent swings, when they made mistakes, we hammered it.”
The Knights belted off 15 hits and scored 11 runs to take down the baseball powerhouse of Florida as Sheridan went five strong innings from the bump, holding one of the nations’ best offenses to three hits and one run, while striking out four. For the Gators, sophomore RHP and Orlando-raised Michael Byrne lasted three innings, giving up six hits, facing 17 batters and allowing five runs.
“We capitalized on a lot of opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on last night,” Sheridan said. “I didn’t think I pitched my best. I was behind in a lot of counts, didn’t throw a lot of first pitch strikes, but found my pitches later. Had a good slider tonight. Found my changeup late and really started to command my fastball towards the end.”
After Sheridan left the game, the UCF bullpen would take over with ease with plenty of offensive cushion room thanks to strong performances by redshirt junior RHP Jordan Scheftz, sophomore RHP Thaddeus Ward and sophomore LHP Bryce Tucker who closed the game out with two strikeouts and a ground ball to second.
The Knights saw offensive contributions as well from senior second baseman Ryan Crile who belted his second homerun of the season, knocking in his 13th RBI of the season. Senior outfielders Luke Hamblin and Eli Putnam each extended their hit streaks to nine games now with a hit in each one as Hamblin knocked in his eighth RBI.
The Knights will take on Stony Brook (1-5) at home for a three-game series starting Friday night.
Evan Abramson is the sports editor for the Central Florida Focus. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Abramson and you can email him at EvanA@centralfloridafocus.com.