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Wednesday April 20, 2011UCF Holds Off No. 5 Florida, 8-6

Orlando, Fla.

UCF (24-14) plated seven of its eight runs with two down in an 8-6 victory over No. 5 Florida (28-10) in front of a record crowd of 3,601 fans on Wednesday night at Jay Bergman Field. Sophomore Chris Taladay (2-for-5) and senior Derek Luciano (2-for-4) each drove in three runs and the Knights withstood a six-run rally in the eighth by the Gators that featured a grand slam by junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) to take both meetings between the squads this season.


Junior Travis Shreve put the Knights on the board with a two-out RBI single in the second off junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) (2-3). Junior Erik Hempe (2-for-4) reached on an infield hit with one down and moved into scoring position on a grounder by Luciano. Shreve sliced a single into left center that brought across Hempe but was then picked off by Toledo to end the inning.


UCF senior Chase Bradford (3-1) retired all six batters he faced before senior Alex Besaw took over at the start of the third inning as part of a pre-determined pitching plan. Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) collected the Gators’ initial hit with a one-out single into right field and was sacrificed over on a bunt by sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.). After sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) drew a walk, Besaw had senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) fly out to right field to strand the runners.


In the home part of the third, junior Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) replaced Toledo, who allowed three hits and a run over two innings. Taladay increased UCF’s lead to 3-0 with a key two-out, two-run single with the bases full. Junior Beau Taylor (3-for-4) led off with a single up the middle and was pushed to second on a bunt by sophomore Darnell Sweeney (2-for-4). Sophomore Ronnie Richardson (1-for-4, two runs) earned a free pass for two runners aboard and a grounder by redshirt sophomore D.J. Hicks enabled both of his teammates to advance. Senior Jonathan Griffin was plunked to load the bases with two out and Taladay delivered a base-knock into center field for a three-run margin. 


After senior Brennan Dobbins threw a scoreless fourth, junior Bryan Brown set down the Gators in order in the fifth. Freshman Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) took the mound for Panteliodis (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 K) prior to the Knights’ fifth trip to the plate and Richardson started things off with a double down the left-field line. Gibson (0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R) fanned Hicks and then had Griffin ground out, putting Richardson at third base. Taladay came through with another two-out RBI single for a 4-0 lead, prompting another pitching change. Hempe greeted junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) with a bloop single into right center and Luciano punched a run-scoring single into left for a 5-0 count.


Junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) took over for Larson (0.1 IP, 2 H) in the bottom of the frame and turned in a 1-2-3 effort. Senior Nick Cicio fired a perfect sixth and seventh, extending the stretch to 10-straight Gators retired. Hicks began UCF’s seventh with a homer to right field off junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) (1.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R) and Luciano connected on a two-run shot with two down to raise the Knights’ lead to 8-0. It was Hicks’ eighth big fly and the fourth round-tripper for Luciano.


UF exploded for six runs on six hits in the eighth, highlighted by a grand slam by Tucker, to narrow the gap to 8-6. Hicks moved from the designated hitter spot to the hill and senior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) started the stanza with a single into right field and junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) followed with his first homer of the season over the fence in left to put the Gators on the board. It was his first four-bagger since Game 1 of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional against Miami (Fla.) on June 11, 2010. Junior Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.) made it three-straight hits for Florida with a pinch-hit single through the right side of the infield before junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) went down swinging on strikes. Fontana was hit by a pitch and a base-hit up the middle by Smith loaded the bases, causing UCF to summon sophomore Joe Rogers to replace Hicks. Tucker brought the Gators within 8-6 with his second grand slam in as many games, a towering fly to right field. It was his team-leading eighth homer and gave the slugger 10 RBI and three bombs in his last two outings. Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-4) drilled a double to straightaway center field and Rogers responded with strikeouts of sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) and Maddox.


Taylor and Sweeney had back-to-back singles off Maddox to open the home part of the eighth and Richardson’s sacrifice attempt failed, as Maddox fielded the bunt and threw Taylor out at third base. Sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) was called in from the bullpen and committed a balk, putting both runners in scoring position. The southpaw whiffed Hicks and then walked Griffin intentionally to fill the bags for Taladay with two down. Rodriguez induced an inning-ending grounder to hold the Gators’ deficit at two runs.


Down to their final three outs, the Gators had Thompson reach on an error by second baseman Shreve to begin the ninth. Rogers struck out Moyer and a fielder’s choice by Pigott erased Thompson at second base before Rogers closed the game by striking out junior pinch hitter Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.).UCF held a 15-8 advantage in hits.


The Gators resume SEC action on Friday at 6:30 p.m. with the opener of a three-game series against Western Division tri-leader Alabama (25-15/8-7 SEC). It will be UF’s first contest at McKethan Stadium since April 5 and will kick off a seven-game homestand.


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