In their first American Conference action of the season, the UCF Knights welcomed in the Houston Cougars for a three-game series. The Cougars walked in with their heads high but forgot to bring their talents to Orlando.
The matchup between the two teams featured the number one pitchers from each team going head to head. The Houston Cougars brought in Seth Romero while the Knights opposed with Robby Howell. Romero had 62 strikeouts heading into the game, which is tied for third in all of the D1 college baseballs with Gonzaga’s Eli Morgan. Romero added a career-high 14 strikeouts to his total tonight but could not come away with the win.
To start the game, Romero had 10 strikeouts in the first four innings, but he still couldn’t prevent the Knights from scoring. In the fourth inning, Kyle Marsh, Eli Putnam, and Logan Heiser all hit three straight doubles to bring in three runs for the Knights. After a clean fifth inning, Romero allowed a two-run bomb to Brooks Morgan and that ultimately ended up putting the game out of reach for the Cougars.
Houston did have a solo home run for the game's first run and did produce another in the sixth but other than that, their offense was non-existent. Robby Howell pitched six innings and allowed the Cougars their only two runs, but the bullpen came in as a safety net. Through three innings, the relievers retired nine straight batters while striking out five of them.
Some stand out Knights were SS Kam Gellinger, 1B Rylan Thomas, and 2B Matthew Mika. Gellinger struck out twice at the plate, but his six assists and stellar play in the field made a difference in the game tonight for UCF. Rylan Thomas also had a poor performance at the plate, but he too was fantastic in the field, practicing his stretching to help his team receive many crucial outs while adding nine putouts for himself. Finally, Matthew Mika extends his hitting streak to 13 games with his bouncing single into right field, and he helped in the field with a couple of assists.
The story of the game was big plays for UCF and nothing on the other end for Houston. The Knights had three doubles and a home run while the Cougars had one double with one home run. Houston catcher Connor Wong allowed multiple passed balls that resulted in UCF to advance into scoring position very easily while catcher Logan Heiser did not allow a single ball to go by him.
By looking at Houston’s starter Seth Romero’s stat line, you would believe that the Cougars would have won this game behind his 14 strikeouts, but they could not get anything going on offense. Romero has the arsenal to have a record better than 3-3, but his wild pitches got the best of him this evening. The game ends with the Knights winning 5-2 over the Cougars in game one of this three-game series.
Game two will be played on April Fools day at Jay Bergman Field with Houston sending out Mitch Ullom to oppose UCF’s Juan Pimentel, who has the lowest ERA of any Knight starting this weekend.