GREENVILLE, N.C. (UCF Athletics) - The UCF baseball team saw its final regular season in Conference USA come to a close Saturday afternoon as it fell to East Carolina, 6-5, in a six-inning contest that was called at 3 p.m. due to travel constraints. Despite a 10 a.m. start time, a 2:54 rain delay forced the shortened finale.
With the regular season in the books, the Knights (29-27, 13-11) will head to the Conference USA Championship in Houston, Texas, as the No. 5 seed. UCF will begin its quest for its first tournament title on Wednesday at 12 p.m. EDT when it goes head-to-head with No. 4 Memphis. The Knights will also battle top-seeded host Rice on Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT and No. 8 UAB Friday at 8 p.m. EDT in their pod. Should they own the best record in the pod, they will advance to Sunday’s championship game at 2 p.m. EDT on CBS Sports Network.
Saturday’s game started with C-USA long-ball leader Chase McDonald not wasting any time getting the Pirates (30-24, 14-10) out ahead as he deposited a 2-out, 2-run homer over the left-field fence in the bottom of the first for his 11th dinger of the year off of starter Brian Adkins.
After the nearly three-hour delay after the first frame came to a close, ECU padded its lead in the second inning when outfielder Ben Fultz teed off with the bases loaded for a grand slam and a 6-0 advantage.
Following his two-hit performance Friday night, catcher Ryan Breen (1-for-3) led off the third by sending a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence for his first homer since March 24, 2012, against the Pirates in Orlando. UCF’s bats continued the third-inning flurry as Erik Hempe (4-for-4, 2 R, 1 RBI) doubled, and Chris Taladay (2-for-3, 1 R) singled prior to Bret Gordon (2-for-3, 1 RBI) ripping the ball into left-center to score Hempe and then Taladay after an error by the left fielder on his throw in.
The Knights continued to claw back into the game in the fifth as Hempe smashed his eighth homer of the year, and fourth in his last six C-USA games, to lead off the frame and make it 6-4. Vasquez followed up with his team-leading 16th double of the year while Taladay was plunked and Gordon singled to load the bases with no outs.
JoMarcos Woods would be selective, and walked on four pitches, to bring in one more run to bring UCF within a run. The Knights, still with the bags juiced and no outs, would not be able to drive anyone else home as a foul popout and two strikeouts ended the threat.
UCF made one last effort in the top of the sixth as Hempe reached on his fourth hit of the ballgame only to see Taladay miss on the go-ahead two-run homer by a few feet as the ball was caught at the wall by right fielder Dylan Brown.
Overall, the Knights hit .326 in the series as Hempe paced the bats with a .538 (7-for-13) average. Taladay also finished the C-USA slate by reaching safely in all 24 contests and notching a base-knock in all but one. He has now reached in 37 straight games and hit safely in 32 of his last 33.