Coming off a huge conference win over the then No.11 Houston Cougars on Sunday, the UCF Baseball team kept their winning mentality going, topping in-state rival, the Stetson Hatters 5-3 Wednesday night.
For the first time in five years, the two Central Florida programs faced off for an exciting match-up at the UCF Baseball Complex and the Knights wasted no time getting started.
The Knights (23-7) looked nothing but sharp early in the game, putting up four runs early, only to then ease off for a few innings, giving the Hatters (13-18) a chance to make things interesting in the ninth. Although a win is a win, coach Greg Lovelady was not particularly thrilled with the performance his team displayed in Wednesday’s match-up.
“Early on I thought we did a really good job, but then I felt like we slept walked a little the last half of the game,” Lovelady said. “I’m not going to take the win back, but we have got to find ways to be better and come out with a lot of energy in practice tomorrow.”
The Knights had six pitching changes on the night and walked five Stetson batters. Two statistics that are quite uncharacteristic for UCF. However, they also recorded three double plays on the night, and despite some difficulty in the bullpen, some on the team stepped up to ensure a Knights win.
Senior right fielder Eli Putnam had a spectacular night, knocking in two RBIs off two doubles while also diving in centerfield for a Sports Center Top-10-like play.
“Today was just like any other game, where I prepared as well as I could in practice, it just happened to be a good day for me,” Putnam said. “I always have to be confident. When I stepped in the box tonight I knew my preparation had prepared me for that moment.”
Putnam was the difference maker for the Knights, putting them up 2-0 in the third inning, and then later stretched their lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the seventh.
After being out for a month due to a thumb injury, senior short stop Brennan Bozeman was back in the lineup for the Knights, which allowed for many players to shift back into the positions they are much more comfortable playing in.
“He obviously is just a tough kid,” Lovelady said. “He’s been through this before and we let him take this at his own pace. His involvement, especially in the double plays tonight were huge.”
Up next, UCF squares off with conference and school-rival USF Friday April 7 at 6:30 p.m. to continue to War on I-4.
Sarah Kelliher is a contributor for the Central Florida Focus. You can follow her on Twitter at @SaraheKelliher and you can email the sports team at EvanA@centralfloridafocus.com.