UCF Baseball gets scratched by Cincinnati Bearcats

by | Apr 30, 2024 | 0 comments

Home E Baseball E UCF Baseball gets scratched by Cincinnati Bearcats

Knights drop the weekend series to their Big 12 rival

Wait, Bearcats have claws, right? One would be led to believe so – bears have claws, cats have claws … combine them, they’ll still have claws … right? Fun fact, the bearcat is actually known as the “binturong” and they are native to south and southeast Asia. Thanks, Wikipedia®! [Also, yes, they do in fact have claws.]

Anyhow, the Knights finished up their eight-game homestand over the last week with a four-game stretch including the usual midweek matchup with a Floridian team and a three-game weekend set with a conference foe.

After being swept in the prior conference weekend by West Virginia, UCF was hoping that some home cooking would get the squad back to their winning ways of earlier in the season.

Recap of the Week


FGCU (10-3 W, Tuesday 4/23)


Cincinnati (4-9 L, 5-2 W, 2-8 L)

The Good

  • The Dominant Duo
    • The pair of Dominic Stagliano and Dominic Castellano combined for the nine innings of work on the mound in the lone weekend victory on Saturday.
    • Shoutouts to Ben Vespi and Kris Sosnowski for what may have been their best appearances of the year. More on that later.
  • Dé-Jàck Vu
    • A pair of go-ahead three-run home runs by Jack Zyska over the weekend provided some spark to the lineup. Both home runs, as it turned out, put the Knight run total at 4 at the time of the ball landing*.
      • *Unconfirmed whether the second one has officially landed as of yet.
  • Sunny Days Ahead?
    • The return of Andrew Sundean sparked some excitement in Knight Nation as the team got its best hitter back. Sundean batted fifth in two of the three games against Cincinnati, reaching base four times over the weekend. Once “Sunny” gets his timing back, the Knights lineup will be much stronger.

The Bad

  • Bullpen Implosions
    • The games on Friday and Sunday were winnable, with Friday’s contest even having UCF with a three-run lead in the 7th inning, before the ball was handed over to the bullpen. Only Castellano seemed immune to bullpen malarkey.
  • Offensive Disappearing Act
    • Outside of Zyska’s home runs, the offense was hard to find. Getting runners on was not an issue. Getting them in, however, was a much different story, as UCF left 25 runners on base against the Bearcats.
  • Injury Bug Again
    • Part of Friday night’s action involved the early departure of Spencer Bauer due to a blister, having faced just one batter. Bauer has been a fixture in this bullpen over the last month and a half, so the coaching staff is hoping this one isn’t too serious.
    • There was one point in Sunday’s game where the trainers and coaches came out to check on Najer Victorbut he was able to stay in after their check-up and had a scoreless outing.
    • Andrew Brait had to leave Tuesday’s midweek game with right shoulder soreness and missed out on Friday’s game. He returned on Saturday and played second base rather than third to attempt to alleviate some stress on his arm.

The Random

  • Kris Sosnowski recorded the first “strike out the side” inning of the year for the Knights in the 9th inning on Friday. [Three up, three down, all strikeouts.]

Speaking of déjà vu, quick sidebar. The Knights won their midweek game 10-3 for the second week in a row. Odd. Do that more often.

The Knights needed to carry that momentum over into the weekend and were unfortunately unable to do so. A fantastic outing from Ben Vespi on Friday night (6 innings and allowing just one hit and two runs) ended up squandered by an atypical bullpen implosion.

When asked if he believes whether the bullpen innings are catching up to them, Rich Wallace stated he “[doesn’t] think so,” mentioning the usage has been spread out and only Kyle Kramer has gone back-to-back games lately.

On Saturday, Dominic Stagliano pitched through some trouble and tough luck, with a shining moment in the second inning of that game. After pitching well enough to have already gotten three outs, “Stags” found himself in a bases loaded no outs situation after some batted balls found their way to the ground and two runs made their way in.

Despite this daunting situation, Stagliano locked himself in and struck out the next three hitters in the middle of the Bearcat order to keep the deficit at just two runs.

“That was … unbelievable,” Zyska said about Stagliano’s finishing of the second inning. “That shows his attitude and mental toughness on the mound to keep executing pitches regardless of the result.”

Stagliano provided the Knights one more scoreless inning before giving way to Dominic Castellano in the 5th, and the Knights were able to rally around Castellano’s scoreless outing to grab the win on the back of Jack Zyska’s second three-run homer in two days.

In the rubber match on Sunday, the game remained close throughout until the final frame. Cade Boxrucker was the victim of some bad luck and inability to finish off innings, as all four runs he allowed were with two outs.

The fourth and final run occurred after a ball was smashed right towards an infielder before hitting the lip of the grass and bouncing over the Knight infielders, turning into a double as the outfielders had not exactly played urgently to get the ball back in.

“That play [out there] was inexcusable,” Wallace said of the lack of hustle. “[Cade] should have only given up three.”

Kris Sosnowski entered the game in the 3rd inning and provided the Knights three scoreless frames allowing just two hits, giving him a total of 4 ⅓ innings without a run over the weekend. When asked what was working for him, Sosnowski said “all my pitches, just filling up the zone … it went well today.”

Najer Victor and Kyle Kramer followed Sosnowski with another 3 ⅓ scoreless innings with three total hits allowed, but the cracks in the bullpen showed eventually as four runs came in over the final two outs in the 9th inning to put the game out of reach.

The Week Ahead

The final stretch of the season is here. Three weeks remain as the Knights will attempt to wrap up the season on some positive notes. Despite recent woes, confidence remains within members of the team.

“We could go to Omaha,” said Sosnowski on what the Knights are capable of. “If we’re all clicking and the offense is intact … we’re deep, I believe in us.”

Four games for the week on the road ahead for the squad as the calendar turns over to May. The second of three scheduled contests on Tuesday against North Florida up in Jacksonville and a weekend series against another former AAC partner in the Houston Cougars awaits UCF.

All four games will be broadcast on ESPN+ – 6 PM on Tuesday, then 7:30, 7:30, and 2 PM for the weekend slate.

North Florida Ospreys (19-22)

Record Since Last Meeting: 2-5

  • Jacksonville (1-2 series loss)
  • FSU (2-10 loss)
  • Stetson (1-2 series loss)

As mentioned previously, this will be the second of three midweek matchups against the North Florida Ospreys. This group has not fared well since the matchup on April 16th which the Knights took 10-3, allowing 53 runs in the seven games since – this includes shutting out Stetson in their most recent game.

Keep an eye on the usual suspects for this squad – DH Jakob Runnels, outfielder Cherokee Nichols, and second baseman Tripp McKinlay have been doing their usual over the last stretch of games. The trio combined for 21 of the Ospreys 52 hits over those most recent seven games, including three of the team’s five home runs.

Shortstop Connor Moore has played well of late, recently moving up to the leadoff spot for the Ospreys. Moore has tallied eight hits in six games, including his first home run of the year, to go along with three doubles in the same span.

Houston Cougars (22-22, 6-15 BXII)

Common Opponents:

  • Kansas State (0-3 series sweep)
  • Texas Tech (0-3 series sweep)
  • Cincinnati (1-2 series loss – hey, some commonality!)

It’s time to face another former fellow AAC on the Knights schedule as the team travels out to Houston for the weekend series. The Cougars, currently sitting at .500, started off the season strong at 6-0, and eventually 14-6 with a 4-2 record in conference play, but have since gone just 8-14 including a 2-13 mark within the conference.

Houston is coming off a series win against UT Arlington (18-26) for their mid-conference slate non-conference series that the Big XII teams have had to schedule this year. The Cougars combined for 30 runs in the three games, dropping the Saturday contest while grabbing the opening and closing games.

This series will be must-win for the Knights to keep hopes alive not only for a potential regional spot, but also a spot within the conference tournament played late next month.


The Cougars have a good bit of thump in their lineup, and they’re led by the powerful bat of Cary Arbolida. The outfielder, despite being 10th on the team in plate appearances with 115, leads the team with 12 home runs on the season and is slashing a robust .365/.456/.833 on the season. Nine of Arbolida’s home runs have come at home.

Arbolida has missed nine of the team’s 44 games and does bat lower in the lineup [typically sixth] which may explain why the plate appearances are lower. Six of Arbolida’s home runs have come in the team’s last seven games.

Senior second baseman Harold Coll leads the team with 25 extra-base hits [11 homers, 18 doubles] and runs batted in [47] on the season. He’s also thrown in 11 stolen bases on the year, so the Knights will have to be mindful of him in those two aspects.

Outfielder/DH Tre Jones leads the team in steals with 17 and has been caught only twice. Jones typically slots in lower in the lineup, possibly due to an on-base percentage that sits 9th on the team at .352 as he’s walked only five times on the year (and been hit six times!), but when he gets on, he will provide some RBI opportunities for the top of the Houston lineup.

Catcher Jonathan French has 10 home runs on the year, putting him third on the team in that category. Like Jones, French’s bat is hidden lower in the lineup, batting 9th in each of the three games over the weekend.


The main rotation fixture for the Cougars this year has been Antoine Jean. Prior to the last three weeks, Jean had started their Friday games and thus far has posted a reasonable 4.32 ERA and 57 strikeouts [team lead] over 50 innings [team lead].

The last four weekends, the Cougars have been missing potentially their best pitcher in Jaxon Jelkin, who had a 3.41 ERA and 46 strikeouts over 34 ⅓ frames on the season.

Cade Citelli has made starts on Friday each of the last two weeks, and over his 29 innings has allowed an opponent’s batting average of just .206, giving up 11 runs in 29 innings for a 3.41 ERA. Citelli is another high-strikeout guy, posting 40 of them in those 29 innings, good for a 12.4 K/9 on the season.

Another arm to keep an eye out for is two-way player Justin Murray, who is also no slouch at the plate. The 5th-year senior first baseman / pitcher is slashing .335/.435/.482 on the year while also putting up a team-best 2.65 ERA and four saves. Murray has pitched just 17 innings over his 14 appearances, and has done so effectively with 25 strikeouts to just 6 walks in those 17 innings, a 13.2 K/9 for the year.

Before We See Them

Houston will face McNeese (21-21) at home on Wednesday prior to the Knight’s arrival. This will be the only time the Cougars face off against McNeese on the season.

Final Notes

Following the weekend series loss, the Knights find themselves in 9th place of the Big 12 standings, tied with Baylor at 9-12. The squad will need to win at least two of the next three weekend sets [@Houston, Texas, @Baylor] and hope that TCU is unable to make up any ground.

The Knights face two of the four teams looking to leapfrog them in Houston [12th] and Baylor [tied 9th]. Going 5-4 from here will put the team at 14-16 which may be just enough to get into the conference tournament, which will include the top 10 teams in the league [out of 13].

There are five home games left for the Knights [May 8th, 10th-12th, and 14th], so come on out to The John™ and support your Knights for the final times this year!

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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