GREENVILLE, N.C. (UCFAthletics.com) - GREENVILLE, N.C. (UCFAthletics.com) – UCF right-hander Ben Lively was simply dominant Thursday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The 6-foot-4 junior tossed a four-hit shutout in the Knights’ 2-0 victory over East Carolina in game one of the final Conference USA series of the year.
For Lively (7-4) in his 21st-career win, it was the first complete-game shutout in his three years, and first nine-inning blanking for a Knights’ (29-25, 13-9) starting pitcher since Tim Bascom accomplished the feat in April 2006 against the Pirates (28-24, 12-10).
“Right away I felt pretty good,” Lively said about having his best stuff. “Obviously last week I had a bad game. I worked all week for (tonight). I was just staying down in the zone. When they hit the ball, they got themselves out.”
In all, Lively used 108 pitches and faced just 30 batters while allowing only two runners in scoring position. He walked one and racked up seven strikeouts, including five looking. The dominant performance dropped his league-leading ERA to 1.71 in 100 frames this year. He is the first pitcher since Bascom in 2005 (113.1) to hit the century mark in innings pitched at UCF.
The Knights will look to make it five wins in their last six against the Pirates Friday night at 6 p.m. with Marc Daniels on the call on 740-AM The Game. Pregame will start 15 minutes prior to first pitch.
Facing the Pirates’ ace in Jeff Hoffman, the UCF offense was able to notch six hits off of the RHP and also coax six walks. The Knights consistently applied pressure on the base paths with the lead-off man reaching in six-of-nine frames.
In the lead-off spot for the 10th time this year, Erik Hempe (1-for-5, 1 R) kicked off the game with his 15th double of 2013 and eventually scored on a Chris Taladay (1-for-3, 1 RBI) sacrifice fly to left-center for the early 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, JoMarcos Woods (2-for-3, 1 RBI) notched his second hit with a double down the left-field line to score Bret Gordon who led off the frame with a walk.
With ECU up in the bottom of the fifth, Lively saw his defense step up big time as he got a home-run saving catch from Hempe. The redshirt senior right fielder reached over the wall to rob C-USA long-ball leader Chase McDonald of his 10th dinger and keep the shutout intact.
UCF made a bid for more in the seventh as Taladay singled to right to make it 35 straight games, including all 22 in league play, that he has reached safely, but Austin Johnston (1-for-3) was thrown out at home on a fine throw by Jay Cannon to end the frame.
The Pirates attempted to break through in the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back one-out singles. Lively would buckle down, however, and get a fly out to Hempe and popup to Bret Gordon at shortstop to end the threat.