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Friday, April 10, 2020

Baseball

UH smashes UCF, wins weekend series


On Sunday, for the second time in the series, Central Florida had the bases loaded in the first inning with premier slugger Chris Duffy at the plate.

And for the second time this weekend, they failed to score. The Cougars’ hitters, however, romped the rest of the game in a 20-3 victory.

UH (12-10, 2-1 Conference USA) followed up a 7-4 loss in Friday’s series opener with a 7-3 victory Saturday. Sunday’s 20-3 blowout gave the Cougars a 2-1 start in conference play against a talented UCF squad.

After getting two quick outs in the first, UH starter Eric Brooks allowed three straight hitters to reach base. That brought the vaunted Duffy to the plate, but Brooks struck him out to leave all the bases stranded.

“I’ve been in the game a long time and when you load the bases, and you don’t get anything out of it, that’s kind of a bad omen for your team,” head coach Rayner Noble said.

Duffy entered the weekend hitting .530 with a 1.220 slugging percentage. But the Cougars’ pitchers mixed their pitches well enough to hold him to 3-of-14 with five RBIs.

“We kept the ball in on (Duffy). He’s a guy that likes to get his arms extended, and we tied him up pretty good in the series,” Noble said. “We threw him off-speed stuff, and threw the fastball in on his hands. That’s the formula to get that guy out.”

Like Saturday, UCF (15-10, 1-2 C-USA) scored first in the second inning Sunday, but UH responded in the bottom half. The Cougars didn’t string together a ton of hits, but an RBI single by Zac Presley and a two-run double by Travis Trial helped put together an eight-run outburst.

The Cougars scored 12 more runs the rest of the way, forcing the game to end after seven innings because of the mercy rule.

Tenacious work by UH left-handed starter William Kankel and strong batting in the middle innings pushed the Cougars to a series-evening 7-3 victory Saturday.

Kankel constantly danced in and out of trouble, battling through 6.2 innings despite allowing eight hits and walking three.

The pivotal point occurred in the first inning when UCF loaded the bases with no outs. Kankel retired the next three batters, including Duffy, to escape the inning unharmed.

“I felt good out there early on, but when I got the bases loaded, I kind of just bared down and realized I had to get these guys out, because I wanted to give our offense a chance,” Kankel said.

Kankel allowed a run in the top of the third inning, but on the first pitch of the bottom of the third, Travis Trial homered to right field to tie the game at 1.

Austin Gracey added a two-run shot to left to make it 3-1 after three.

UCF responded with two runs in the fifth to pull within 4-3, but Codey Morehouse hit a three-run homer in the sixth to give the Cougars their final margin of victory.

“It’s always great to have a win where everybody contributes,” Trial said. “The pitching was phenomenal, the defense was phenomenal. With no errors, and with 12 hits, you can’t really do much better than that. It was a really great win for the Houston Cougars.”

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