UCF Baseball joins the ranks

by | Apr 2, 2024 | 0 comments

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Knights crack Top 25 after series win over Texas Tech

For the first time since 2020, the UCF Knights Baseball team is ranked! Slotting in at 25th on D1Baseball’s list and 20thon Perfect Game’s top 25, the Knights have rolled the momentum of the last three weeks into the rankings.

UCF wrapped up a 3-1 week on Saturday that included being one out short of a no-hitter, a second walk-off hit-by-pitch, and a third consecutive Big XII series win. The Knights are still looking for that first conference series sweep – however, the team is in a solid spot entering April, right in the middle of the conference at roughly the midway point of the season.

Recap of the Week


Jacksonville (6-0 W, Tuesday 3/26)


Texas Tech (5-4 W/wo, 2-1 W, 2-3 L)

The Good

  • Pitching … entirely
    • Eight runs allowed over the four games during the week, and efficiently done so, having just seven pitchers take the ball in the contests. (Spencer Bauer and Kyle Kramer each made two appearances.)
    • A near-historic performance on Tuesday – more on that later.
    • Bullpen dominant again – just one run allowed.
      • Two inherited runners did score once relievers entered the ballgame.
  • Cold & Windy Demons Exercised
    • Following the two wins in frigid temperatures the previous weekend on the Saturday doubleheader, the Knights pushed through another pair of chilly, windy evenings at home to get some wins.
  • Walk-Off Hit-By-Pitch Becoming a Trend?
    • Second time in two Big XII home series that the Knights have won by way of a walk-off hit by pitch. Matt Prevesk had the first one against Oklahoma State, and Andrew Williamson wore the badge of honor this time around.

The Bad

  • Injury Bug
    • Unfortunate news after Friday’s game as catcher/DH Andrew Sundean was seen with a brace on his leg and had to sit out Saturday’s series finale. Severity of the injury is currently unknown, but all of Knight nation is hoping for a speedy recovery.
    • Second baseman Andrew Estrella has also been dealing with some injuries of late, explaining his absence from the lineup. He did, however, hit a pinch-hit home run in Saturday’s contest in the 9th inning, so we may see him back in the order soon enough.
  • Sweep Allergy
    • Knights have twice had an opportunity going into the final game of the weekend series at home to get a sweep and thus far been unable to do so. The important thing is that the Knights are winning these conference series, so as long as this continues, things will roll the Knights’ way.

The Knights started off the week on an incredible note against the Jacksonville Dolphins, with Cade Boxrucker coming just one out away from the Knights’ first single-pitcher no-hitter since 1973 and first overall since 2008. A double to left-center just out of the reach of an Andrew Williamson diving attempt is all that stood between Box and history in the 6-0 midweek victory for UCF.

“I think he threw over 110 pitches,” noted reliever Kyle Kramer upon being asked about Boxrucker’s outing Thursday night. Given that the Knights were on a short week with the Texas Tech series beginning on Thursday, this outing saved the bullpen heavily, and it was much needed for the weekend set. Spencer Bauer had to get just one out to wrap up that game and was ready to go again on Thursday evening.

Timely hits were the name of the game over the weekend’s wins. While there were some moments that left more to be desired [leaving the bases loaded multiple times], UCF was able to come up with a big hit when it mattered most.

The 9th inning of Game 1 involved a game-tying RBI double by outfielder Jack Zyska scoring Matt Prevesk who reached on a single just before that. In Game 2, Danny Neri, occupying the DH role for the game, brought in an insurance run in the 6th inning which ended up being the game-winning run.

“You’re down 3 with half the game left, there doesn’t need to be any panic,” stated Zyska after Thursday’s victory.

Zyska’s double, along with his hustle to get to third safely on a ground ball to shortstop shortly after this, helped give the Knights a chance to set the tone and win that first game, which they did shortly after on the Williamson hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded.

The Week Ahead

For the first time in 2024, the Knights have a five-game week ahead of them, with two midweek games. First off, UCF will head east to Daytona Beach on Tuesday to play the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, then head on back home for a showdown with the North Florida Ospreys on Wednesday. Following this, more Big XII action, with the Kansas State Wildcats coming into town for the weekend set. (Two Wildcats?? Make sure Gus doesn’t see this!)

All games involving Wildcats will be televised. Bethune-Cookman will be hosting a stream on their YouTube channelwhile the weekend set with K-State will, of course, be on ESPN+. As of the time of this writing, the North Florida game will be radio only.

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (15-11)

Common Opponents:

  • Florida (2-9 Loss)
  • Jacksonville (4-3 Win)
  • The Westward Moo-Moo Factory (5-6 Loss)
  • North Florida* (2-1 Win)
    • *UCF is about to play them for the first time

Bethune-Cookman is on a bit of a roll lately, winning 11 of their last 14 games, most recently with a sweep over Alabama A&M. This run came on the heels of a five-game losing streak that led them into March, and now has them sitting at a comfortable 7-1 within their own conference.

There is not much to speak of in terms of power for these Wildcats, as the team has combined for just seven home runs on the year. They do, however, run freely when they’re on the basepaths, totaling 63 steals thus far which ranks them 10th in the nation, tied with two other teams.

Outfielder Sergio Rivera leads that charge with 14 swipes, and his .417 OBP ranks 4th on the team with at least 60 plate appearances. First baseman Manny Souffrain has reached base exactly half the time he’s gotten the chance, leading the team with 27 walks and 9 times being hit-by-pitch. Just 18 hits on the year for Souffrain, but half of them have gone for extra bases.

Outfielder Garret Chun leads the way with 25 runs batted in and shows a good eye at the plate with 20 walks to just 12 strikeouts. No home runs to speak of, but when the opportunities arrive to drive in runs, he’s risen to the challenge often.

North Florida Ospreys (14-12)

Common Opponents:

  • Florida (0-10, 4-13 Losses)
  • FAU (8-6 Win)
  • Cow Barn Express (5-17 Loss)

In contrast with Bethune-Cookman, the Ospreys are on a bit of a recent dry spell, sitting on five consecutive losses after a strong start to the season. They do not have a game on Tuesday like the Knights do, so they’ll be rolling into Orlando fresh.

North Florida has a pair of hitters who are sitting on four home runs in outfielder Cherokee Nichols and Catcher/DH Jakob Runnels. Second baseman Tripp McKinlay follows them up with a pair of home runs, but also leads the team in most of the offensive categories, including RBI (30), the entire slash line (.371/.462/.536), and times being hit by pitch (6), where he is tied with Runnels.

Being a midweek game, expect many pitching changes, as per usual. This applies to both this game and the one against B-CU.

Kansas State Wildcats (18-8, 6-3 BXII)

Common Opponents: Surprisingly, none yet!

The Wildcats are coming off a weekend series loss to the Texas Longhorns, a three-game set in which they allowed 33 runs (21 on Friday alone) as they were unable to get the series win after taking the first game. This series loss also dropped them out of the Top 25, as they sat at number 23 entering last week.

Kansas State, much like the other Wildcats mentioned previously, like to run a bit when they get on base, tied for 13th in the nation with 62 stolen bases. Unlike B-CU, however, this group possesses a bit more pop, sitting on 40 home runs entering the week (51st overall, 3rd in conference).


The K-State Wildcats currently have four every-day players with an OPS north of 1.000. This group includes outfielders Brendan Jones and Chuck Ingram alongside the double play combination up the middle of Kaelen Culpepper and Brady Day. Catcher Raphael Pelletier just misses the mark with a .965 OPS.

Unsurprisingly, these five also sit at the top of the Wildcat leaderboard in home runs. Ingram leads the way with 7, Culpepper and Day each have six, and Jones and Pelletier follow them up with five each.

Jones (15) and Culpepper (10) have combined for 25 of the team’s 62 steals this year, and they do so efficiently, only being caught twice between them (once each). Given that they get on base consistently (.466 and .421 OBP respectively), the Knight pitchers and catchers will have to keep a close eye on them to try and avoid these swipes.


On the run-prevention side of things, it would seem as though, like the Red Raiders last weekend, the Wildcats are coming in with starters who have higher than usual ERAs. However, as we all learned, that does not indicate future results!

When the Wildcats have a late-enough lead, look on them to call on Jackson Wentworth, who has made a team-leading 13 appearances and has pitched in 32 ⅔ innings on the season, accumulating five saves and a team-leading (tied) strikeout total of 48. Batters are hitting just .171 against him, and when they do get hits, they aren’t often damaging, allowing a .274 slugging percentage in that span.

Owen Boerema has made nine starts for Kansas State, holding that tie for the team lead in strikeouts over 38 ⅓ innings and allowing a .243 batting average against him, but can be prone to some wildness. 10 hit batters and 20 walks along with the allowed hits give him an OBP allowed of .369. Following Boerema, Jacob Frost and Josh Wintroub have made the most starts (7 and 5 respectively). Similar to Boerema, Frost can be a bit wild, with 16 walks in just 30 ⅔ innings. Wintroub, however, has allowed just seven total walks and hit batters in 28 innings. Be that as it may, he has allowed a .302 average against him.

The Wildcats pitchers mentioned above have all been able to sustain reasonable ground ball rates, with Boerema getting 54.7% of batted balls on the ground. Wentworth has a nearly even split of ground balls to fly balls, but does not give up many line drives, speaking to his effectiveness.

Before We See Them

Kansas State will play a game against Missouri State (10-15, 5-game losing streak) on Wednesday the 3rd before heading on down to Orlando. This is not the first time these two teams have faced off, as they had a three-game series in mid-March, with K-State sweeping that set.

Final Notes

This weekend, UCF will attempt to win a fourth consecutive BXII series and this may be their biggest test yet. Not only due to the difficulty of the matchup, but also being the first five-game week of the season, the bullpen depth will be tested. (Can you give us another outing like last week, Cade?)

Come on out to The John™ and support the Knights against the Ospreys and Wildcats this week!

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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