Knights swept from the Mountain(eer) top

by | Apr 17, 2024 | 0 comments

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UCF Baseball suffers a winless week

Consider UCF’s momentum … halted. At least for now.

Following the move up to anywhere from 16th to 19th in the national top 25 polls, the Knights suffered their worst week of the season. Four games, four losses, and dropping out of the polls entirely.

Entering Week 9, UCF had four consecutive conference series victories and had yet to lose a game that wasn’t part of a weekend set. Both of those have gone by the wayside in the aftermath of the 0-4 week.

Recap of the Week


Stetson (3-5 L, Wednesday 4/10) – first midweek loss of 2024


West Virginia (6-7 L, 5-7 L, 10-11 L/wo (11))

The Good

  • Bats Possibly Coming Back Around?
    • UCF was able to average seven runs per game in the three-game set with West Virginia (slight skew in the final game with the 10 runs), following a stretch where the squad averaged 4.9 runs per game in conference.
  • Silver Lining?
    • Losses aren’t fun, there’s nothing around that. The team, however, was in each game until the end – as shown above, the average margin of loss was a run and a half.

The Bad

  • The Bullpen
    • For the first time in quite a while, the Knights bullpen faltered, and consistently. In three of the games this week, the Knights had a lead that was handed over to the bullpen and resulted in a loss.
  • Questionable Decision-Making
    • This one ties in with the bullpen and a lack of reliable options. Rich Wallace has typically relied on four arms out of the bullpen on a consistent basis, those being Kyle KramerChase CentalaSpencer Bauer, and Dominic Castellano – Dom mainly being a multi-inning guy following Wiley Hartleystarts on Sundays lately.
    • Castellano entered Sunday’s game in the second inning following a short start from Cade Boxrucker, and despite giving up a home run to the first batter he faced, was rolling along well over 3 ⅓ innings. Wallace chose that time to go with Centala, who was set to be tasked with attempting a four-inning save after he hadn’t pitched in nine days.
    • Pinch-hitting for Andrew Williamson against the Mountaineers after he had driven in four runs throughout in a bases loaded situation in the 8th inning may have been costly as the Knights were unable to push a run across after that switch.
  • Stranding Runners
    • This has been a theme since conference play began, as the Knights had multiple scoring opportunities flame out without getting at least one across the plate.
  • Out of the Rankings
    • Of course, with a four-game skid like this, the Knights were bound to freefall out of the rankings. That is indeed the case, falling from the mid to high teens to being out entirely.

After multiple weeks of coming up clutch, the bullpen was unable to hold its end of the bargain over the last week. In fairness to that group, however, the offense has been lacking for some time, and eventually, the bend-don’t-break bullpen was going to have to end up warped.

Multiple weekends of high leverage situations and potential overuse on some pitchers [namely Kyle Kramer who it feels like is in every game] in those spots inevitably comes around to bite teams in rough spots.

The four pitchers listed above in the trusted group of relievers have made 20, 12, 15, and 11 appearances respectively, and rarely are out there for just an inning. Castellano especially, as noted, has generally been a long relief “piggyback” reliever on Sundays, sitting third on the team in innings despite just one start.

As mentioned above, runners being stranded on base, along with some poor baserunning, cost the Knights offensively in multiple scenarios, placing more pressure on the already-spent bullpen.

The Week Ahead

The Knights head back home to face off against the North Florida Ospreys and the Central Michigan Chippewas to begin an eight-game homestand.

This will be the first of three that the Knights will play, officially, against North Florida this season – a game was supposed to take place against them two weeks ago but was postponed due to rain.

Only two games on the week will be telecast, those being the Friday and Sunday contests against Central Michigan on ESPN+. North Florida comes in for a Tuesday night contest at 6 PM where the weekend set is the typical 6/6/1 format.

North Florida Ospreys (17-16)

Common Opponents:

  • Florida (0-10, 4-13 Losses)
  • FAU (8-6 Win)
  • That School Out West™ (5-17 Loss)
  • Bethune-Cookman (1-2 Loss)

North Florida was meant to visit The John™ two weeks ago on April 3rd but good old Mother Nature had other plans. That game has been moved to April 30th up in Jacksonville and the May 8th game switched to a home contest to balance things out.

Catcher/DH Jakob Runnels has been on a bit of a power trip lately. Upon checking into the numbers for the Ospreys two weeks ago, he and outfielder Cherokee Nichols were tied for the team lead with four home runs. Runnels has since doubled his total with four homers in their last seven games (UNF is 3-4 in that span) and now sits with 8 round trippers on the season.

Second baseman Tripp McKinlay still leads the team in hitting, although his numbers have dropped a bit in the last two weeks from a .371/.462/.536 slash line to .339/.431/.504. He does still lead the Ospreys in RBI with 34 on the year.

Central Michigan Chippewas (11-25)

Common Opponents:

  • Oklahoma State (0-3 Series Sweep; 4-7, 1-8, 0-19)

A break from conference play as the Knights will host Central Michigan over the weekend. This series was initially scheduled to be four games with a Saturday doubleheader beginning at noon, but a recent announcement mentioned that Saturday will now be just one game. No reason has been given as to why the cancelation has taken place.

As of the time of this writing, the Chippewas are coming off suffering a weekend sweep at the hands of Bowling Green. They did, however, knock off Michigan State in their midweek 10-0.


The CMU pitching staff overall has not performed well over the season, to put it nicely. The team leader in ERA, Evan Waters, is sitting with a 4.64 on the year over 33 innings which spans 14 appearances, which ties him for second on the team in that category.

Lefty starter Adam Mrakitsch popped off the page for one simple reason – strikeouts. In 46 ⅔ innings, Mrakitsch has struck out 66, giving him a robust 12.73 K/9 on the year. Batters are hitting .258 against Mrakitsch and have also drawn 22 walks while he’s been on the mound. We may see UCF try and stack the right-handed bats against him this weekend if he’s starting.

Keegan Batka is tied for the team lead in starts and does lead CMU in innings with 48 ⅔ on the year. Hitters are batting .292 against him and he has issued 26 walks himself.


On the other side of the ball, look for the Chippewas to run and run often when they get on base. Their 77 stolen bases [as of time of writing] ties them for 14th in D1 baseball with Kentucky and Cincinnati.

Leading them in steals with 12 is outfielder Jacob Donahue. One of the few bright spots on the team, Donahue leads them in the traditional slash line for players with starting amounts of plate appearances (.401/.475/.511).

Third baseman Ely Stuart paces the team in home runs and RBI with 5 and 30 respectively but appears to have an aggressive approach at the plate that Knight pitching may be able to exploit somewhat, as he has struck out 37 times to just drawing 9 walks.

Final Notes

The Knights need a handful of bounce-back performances, and to be blunt, this needs to be a 4-0 week. Anything less and some major concerns are going to begin to balloon.

The hope is that this week will be able to be a confidence boosting set of games and get the offense back on track while potentially seeing some new arms out of the bullpen.

Come on out to The John™ this week, and don’t forget to bring sunscreen and stay hydrated – temperatures are trending into the 90’s this weekend!

About Michael Theed
Michael is a 2019 UCF Grad (Bachelors, Civil Engineering) who follows the Miami Marlins & Dolphins. You can find him on Twitter @Mptness4 regularly tweeting about UCF Baseball.


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