UCF Baseball takes a birds-eye view of the weekend

by | Mar 26, 2024 | 0 comments

Home E Baseball E UCF Baseball takes a birds-eye view of the weekend

The Knights go 3-1 with wins over FAU and Kansas

It was a cold week for UCF, relatively speaking. Starting with the game on Tuesday against Florida Atlantic, not one pitch was thrown in the four games for the Knights where the temperature was above 65 degrees, and never above 45 over the weekend. A concern, as the opening Big 12 weekend in Norman brought with it some worries about the team in colder weather.

However, the team rolled the momentum from the prior week into this one and came out with a sparkling 3-1 week with a midweek victory and a weekend series win against the Jayhawks, including a doubleheader sweep on Saturday the 23rd.

Recap of the Week


FAU (3-2 W, Tuesday March 19th)


Kansas (3-13 L Friday, 6-2 and 4-1 Ws Saturday)

The Good

  • Pitching … mostly
    • Friday’s contest brought with it some major concern with regards to the team’s cold-weather performance. The pitching staff, however, put that behind them, and combined to allow just five runs in the three other games.
    • Dominic Castellano, Kyle Kramer, and Chase Centala provided the Knights with incredible relief appearances, combining for 14 ⅓ innings out of the arm barn and allowing just one run one two hits in that time, striking out 12 in the process.
  • The Sundean Clutch Gene™
    • Andrew Sundean had himself a week with some big moments. Coming off his exhilarating 9th-inning game-tying homer against the Cowboys, “Sunny D” followed that up by driving in all three runs in the FAU midweek game, including a go-ahead blast in the 8th inning that resulted in the game-winning run, and driving in five of the team’s 10 runs in the Saturday doubleheader against Kansas.
  • Braden’s Breakout
    • Second baseman Braden Calise had himself a ridiculous Saturday, going a perfect 6-for-6 with two walks while playing fantastic defense up the middle in the twin-bill. He even stole two bases for good measure.
      • Don’t worry, he gave them back so that Kansas can use them for their next few games.

The Bad

  • Friday Knight Fever – but not the good kind
    • A surprising performance from Ben Vespi whose control seemed to escape him that evening. Five walks and five hits allowed in just 2 ⅔ innings where he amassed just a 50% strike rate over 78 pitches.
    • A tip of the hat to Jayhawks shortstop Collier Cranford who went 4-for-5, hitting for the “natural” cycle (that is, in the order of single – double – triple – home run) and driving in seven runs on the evening, capping it off with a grand slam in the 7th.

The Random

  • Gotcha!
    • In the previous recap, it was mentioned that Kansas had been perfect in their attempts to steal bases. This is no longer true! After a successful swipe on Friday night to jump them up to 10-for-10, Sundean threw out Collier Cranford attempting to steal second.
  • “How dare you have an opinion!”
    • Knights pitching coach Drew Thomas was ejected in the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday after commenting on a clear and obvious blown call at second base, which was the second of the day. Both were overturned by replay.
      • This meant that head coach Rich Wallace assumed pitch-calling duty for the remainder of that game. Seems Rich did alright, considering the Jayhawks only got two more hits after that.

This marks two Big XII series wins in a row for the Knights, and their first conference series win on the road. UCF will have to fly out for three more road series in the Big 12 in 2024, although the next one is not until April 12th. [Sidebar – tax season, ending soon!]

On another important note, UCF may have found their third guy on the weekends in Wiley Hartley, who has now made three starts on the year [14 ⅓ innings, with his start Tuesday truncated so he could start over the weekend], allowing three runs on eight hits, striking out 13 and walking just three batters. He will have to continue that momentum into the upcoming series against the Red Raiders.

Hartley and Castellano have piggy-backed outings their last two times out, being the only two arms the Knights used in game two of the doubleheader. They tag-teamed the first 5 ⅔ on Tuesday against the Owls after Hartley was lifted due to pitch count [45]. This is a tandem that Coach Wallace may stick with going forward.

“Those two pitch well off each other, their stuff kind of matches,” said Wallace after Tuesday’s game.

On the other side of the ball, Braden Calise is playing his way into the starting second base role for a while. Despite his hot start and leading the team with five home runs, Andrew Estrella has run into major struggles of late, striking out at an alarming rate and topping the team with 21 punchouts in his 62 plate appearances, a 33.9% K-rate for the powerful infielder.

Calise defensively has shown a larger range of ground balls that he can get due to his speed and a quicker first step. While it is still a small sample, Calise has struck out just twice while walking five times in 23 plate appearances. These two areas of defense and putting the ball in play are things that Coach Wallace emphasizes, which may continue to lead to playing time for Calise.

The Week Ahead

A small quirk in the schedule this week, due to the upcoming Easter holiday. After a normal Tuesday midweek game up north against the Jacksonville Dolphins (wait, doesn’t Miami have the Dolphins, the greatest football team?), UCF will play host to the Texas Tech Red Raiders for a series that runs Thursday through Saturday rather than the typical Friday through Sunday.

All games will be televised. The Jacksonville game will be found at this link, with the three games against Texas Tech being on ESPN+/Big XII Now.

Jacksonville Dolphins (11-12)

Common Opponents:

  • Western Cow University (12-16 Loss)
  • Stetson (2-1 Series Win – 2-7, 8-6, 5-2)
  • Florida (7-6 Win)

Over the last month, Jacksonville has had a polarizing run of games. Five consecutive losses, two consecutive wins, six consecutive losses, six consecutive wins. The most recent weekend involved three slugfests against Bellarmine, oddly enough played on “Knights Field” in Kentucky, with the two teams combining for 76 runs in three games.

For the Dolphins, second baseman Justin Nadeau and first baseman Josh Steidl lead the charge offensively with each holding an OPS over 1.050. These two also pace the team in RBI by a considerable margin, being the only two to have more than 15 as they have 21 and 26 RBI respectively.

Nadeau has reached his OPS by the sheer collection of hits, sitting with 32 on the year in 77 at bats, giving him a .416 average. Steidl on the other hand has achieved his the more traditional way by slugging baseballs at or over the wall, holding the team lead with six home runs. The rest of the Jacksonville team combined has 10.

Whenever on base, Nadeau and center fielder William Gale will look to put pressure on pitchers with their stolen base prowess, combining for 18 steals in 19 attempts.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (17-7, 4-5 BXII)

For the first month of the season, the Red Raiders seemed to be an offensive juggernaut ready to set some run scoring records, including games where they scored 20, 29, and 32 runs early in the season. While they have cooled off that pace a bit, they still have dangerous bats in their lineup to navigate.

Texas Tech had been ranked in D1’s top 25 list until last week when they dropped out following a 3-2 week, with those two losses coming at the hands of Baylor (8-15, 3-6 BXII). A 3-1 week with a series win against BYU was not enough to get them back into the Top 25.

This will be the first set of games this year for the Red Raiders taking place east of Arlington, Texas, where they began the year in the Shriners Children’s College Showdown, involving other teams such as Tennessee, Oregon, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Baylor.


The first name to pop off the page for the Red Raiders is outfielder Damian Bravo. Bravo leads the team with a .435 average, .682 slugging (minimum 50 plate appearances), and 30 RBI. Despite only hitting two home runs thus far, Bravo leads all of Division 1 baseball in doubles with 15.

Following Bravo is a player who has missed a few games this year, but is on a bit of a run lately, and that is fellow outfielder Drew Woodcox. Despite having just 46 plate appearances, he is tied for the team lead with 5 home runs and is sitting on a staggering OPS of 1.308. First baseman Gavin Kash is the other Red Raider with five home runs.

Third baseman Cade McGee is an on-base machine, boasting an OBP of .527 that is bolstered by his team-leading 22 walks and 15 times being hit by a pitch, tied for third in D1 baseball for most times hit.

The Red Raiders don’t exactly appear to have a starting catcher, but that hasn’t mattered – they all hit well. Kevin BazzellDylan Maxcey, and Davis Rivers have combined for 139 plate appearances, five home runs, 39 RBI, and 43 hits on the year.


The Knights will have to take advantage of some inflated ERAs on the Texas Tech staff. None of the pitchers with at least four starts have an ERA under 4.65, the total currently held by Kyle Robinson over six starts. Robinson, incidentally, leads the team in innings [31] and strikeouts [36], and sits second in batting average against [.238 – minimum 10 innings].

Reliever Josh Sanders has an ERA of 2.16 and batting average against of .194 over 16 ⅔ innings (12 appearances), striking out 19 and walking only 2.

Jack Washburn joins Robinson with six starts on the year, while Mac Heuer and Zane Petty each have four starts with six overall appearances, with each sitting right near a strikeout per inning [25 in 24 ⅓ and 15 in 16, respectively]. Both have higher ERAS [5.18 and 7.88] – Heuer’s is more hit-oriented as he’s walked only four, but Petty has walked 12 on the year.

While another reliever in Cole Kaase has not pitched in many games, just 6 ⅔ innings spanning five games so far, he looks to have some dominating stuff, as he’s struck out 13 in that small window.

Before We See Them

The Red Raiders will play a home midweek matchup against Stephen F. Austin who is currently sitting at 3-22 on the year and running on a 21-game losing streak.

Final Notes

The Knights are looking for their third consecutive BXII series win against a team with which they are tied currently in the conference at 4-5. A win this weekend can catapult UCF towards the top of the conference before hosting current conference leader and 23rd-ranked Kansas State Wildcats [17-6, 5-1].

UCF will also play their first five-game week after the Red Raiders series, playing out in Daytona at Bethune-Cookman and hosting North Florida. This will be a good test of the Knights’ pitching depth, especially coming off a tough series.

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.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *