Riding the high horse of a seven-game winning streak, UCF trampled over the kings of college baseball’s landscape on Tuesday.
Midway through the third inning of a contest between the Gators and Knights, Florida starting pitcher Jack Leftwich was jumped for six earned runs. All six of UCF’s scores in the frame came with two outs and gave it a 6-3 lead, forcing Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan to pull Leftwich midway through the onslaught for the shortest start of his career.
It can be conveyed on a scorecard (FC5U, E5), but it can’t be explained or appreciated there…
The Knights’ offensive outburst jump-started an outing that saw UCF gather double-digit hits for the fifth time this season. The team’s 15 base knocks helped the Knights (9-3) record a 9-7 victory over No. 1 UF (12-2) in Orlando.
“When you beat the No. 1 team in the country, it’s exciting,” Knights coach Greg Lovelady said in a video posted on UCF’s Twitter account.
Leftwich, who came into the game with a sub-1.00 ERA, only retired eight batters throughout the evening and struggled to find his command. The freshman gave up four of Florida’s 10 walks in addition to five hits against 16 batters.
But Florida had the upper hand to start the contest.
On the first pitch of the evening, sophomore Wil Dalton sent a shot over the wall for his fourth home run of the year to put the Gators up 1-0. Florida added two more runs in the third on a single to left field from designated hitter Nelson Maldonado and a single to center field from catcher JJ Schwarz.
However, the Knights didn’t trail for long.
Four consecutive two-out RBI singles from the middle of UCF’s batting order allowed the them to double Florida’s run total and give them a three-run lead.
The Knights then added two more in the fourth and an insurance run in the sixth, all coming off two-out base hits against Florida relievers Andrew Baker and Hunter McMullen.
"It was very uncharacteristic with how we’ve been pitching the whole year,” O’Sullivan said in a release. “For whatever reason, we just weren’t able to finish innings.”
Despite a three-run shot from Gators first baseman Keenan Bell in the sixth and a solo home run from Maldonado in the ninth, UCF held on to hand Florida its second loss of the season.
UF will now host UCF on Wednesday night as the teams head to Gainesville for the second end of a two-game series. The Gators are hoping to avoid a third consecutive loss to the Knights dating back to last season, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since UCF won four straight between 1985 and 1990.