JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University (10-11) had 10 hits and several deep flyouts against opposing pitchers Saturday, but it wasn't enough to overcome UCF (17-3). The Knights defeated the Dolphins 10-3 in John Sessions Stadium, giving UCF a 2-0 advantage in the four-game season series.
"Tough one tonight for us," said Head Coach Chris Hayes. "[Starting pitcher] Chris Gau has been so good, and they hit some balls really well off of Gau in the third. The Knights got some balls up in the wind, and it just wasn't our night. Credit to UCF for swinging the bats exceptionally well at the beginning of the game. We made some adjustments, and I was glad to see Disch and Potter come back in and do a pretty good job of holding a good offense down in the final innings."
UCF struck quickly with a two-out solo homer in the first, and didn't look back, scoring at least one run in each of the first four innings. The Knights' second run scored in the top of the second on a groundout to short that followed a leadoff triple. The Dolphins were able to answer that run in the bottom of the second thanks to singles from Evan Fernandez and Ruben Someillan and an RBI fielder's choice from Dakota Julylia. After two UCF led 2-1.
The Knights grew their run cushion considerably in the top of the third with five runs on five hits. All nine UCF batters came to the plate in the third, and only one runner was stranded. After three innings UCF led 7-1.
A leadoff homer in the fourth inning stretched the UCF lead to seven runs, and the next batter was walked. Eventually that free base turned into a run as the runner on first stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then made it home safely on an RBI single through the left side. After four UCF led 9-1.
Shane Wise and Nathan Disch held the Knights in check for the next two innings, but the third UCF homer of the night and the second leadoff dinger came in the seventh. Mark Potter's first pitch was hit high into the air and caught just enough air to transform from a routine flyout to center into a homer right over the centerfield wall, traveling over 400 feet. The rest of the inning was routine for the freshman from Melbourne, Fla., and UCF did not score again in the game. After seven innings UCF led 10-1.
After some defensive changes throughout the game, several JU utility players got to make their presence known to the UCF battery in the bottom of the ninth. Chris Lehane led off the inning with a free base on a hit-by-pitch, and was advanced to third on a double from Someillan. Julylia got some tough luck on a foul out that the wind blew back into the stadium, but Zack Smith drew a walk in the next at-bat. Scott Dubrule and Reagan Wright hit back-to-back singles with the bases loaded to score Lehane and Someillan, but the inning was ended on two strikeouts. The final from Sessions: UCF 10, JU 3.
"I'm a big proponent of giving guys an opportunity, keeping everyone in the dugout engaged, and letting them know that they'll have a chance to play this game. We're going to put something together offensively, and we will figure out the right combination of guys to get quality at-bats consistently. It was great to see Evan and Ruben step up when their names were called," said Hayes.
The Dolphins will look to take the third game of the series on Sunday with Casey Kulina on the mound. The game is JU's Salute to Service day, which will feature free admission for all military members, retired and active duty, with a valid military I.D. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.