UCF Knights Baseball goes Big (XII) time

by | Mar 8, 2024 | 1 comment

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The Week in UCF Baseball

Big XII competition begins this weekend, and boasting a 9-1 start, the UCF Knights are storming into conference play on quite a high, especially coming off a victory against the 4th-ranked Florida Gators on Wednesday.

After nearly a full month of ball played in the state of Florida, the Knights head out to Norman, Oklahoma for a three-game set with the Sooners to open their first conference series as a Big XII member.

Recap of the Week


11-6 W (FAU – Feb 27)
9-6 W (#4 UF – Mar 6)

Weekend, usf, Mar 1-3:

            3-2 W (10 inn/walkoff), 5-7 L, 1-0 W

The Good

  • Offense
    • Sustaining the trend of stacking good at bats together. Still not relying on the home run and avoiding strikeouts in key situations.
      • “The ball in play is at a premium in college baseball, and we’ve obviously improved in that.” – Coach Rich Wallace, Friday night post-game.
    • When the home runs are hit, however, they’ve been big. Matt Prevesk [vs usf] and Andrew Williamson [vs UF] each hit 3-run home runs, the latter’s first collegiate home run. Andrew Estrella hit two more [3-run against FAU, solo against usf] during his hot streak.
  • Stellar pitching performances
    • Cade Boxrucker had five innings of two-hit, one-run ball against FAU, including retiring the final 14 batters that he faced.
    • Dom Castellano had 4.2 innings of two-hit, one-run ball against Florida in relief, striking out five and walking none in the process.
    • Chase Centala has been spectacular in all his outings thus far, now sitting on 7.1 scoreless innings with four saves on the year. Centala spun a total of 4.2 scoreless frames against usf with 5 strikeouts and no hits allowed in the two wins.
  • Defense
    • Lex Boedicker turned about three unassisted double plays during this stretch by snagging sharp line drives over at first base, a position he entered the year with little experience.
      • “Totally brand new.” – Lex Boedicker regarding playing first base, Friday night post-game.
    • The team overall has been solid in the field, keeping errors off the scoreboard and making some spectacular plays in the process. Mikey Kluska and Andrew Brait made multiple stops leaving their feet on the left side of the infield.

The Bad

  • First loss of the year
    • Well … had to lose eventually, right?
  • … it was to the cows.
    • … oh. Is it time to fire Rich Wallace? (It is not, this is a joke.)
      • Sidebar – extend Johnny Dawkins! Alright, back to baseball.
  • Call Timeout!!
    • One thing the Knight hitters have been hesitant to do to this point of the season has been to call timeout to try and break up the rhythm of pitchers they face. Multiple pitchers have come in and easily gotten into a groove by pitching quickly against UCF without having to slow it down, resulting in a string of scoreless innings as the hitters have trouble getting comfortable.

The Knights went through a tough slate of games over the last five, and things will not be getting easier entering Big 12 play. They got through it with flying colors, winning four of the five, besting a strong Florida Atlantic squad, taking the series against the rival team west of I-4, and toppling #4 Florida to round things out.

In the games against FAU and UF, the pitching staff made sure to make the opposition earn their baserunners. A combined one (1) walk against those two squads helped pave the way for the group to maintain composure and work around any jams.

When control has eluded the Knight arms, however, they’ve been able to work around and “be their own reliever,” as Coach Wallace has alluded to multiple times, mitigating any damages that have been allowed.

The trend of getting runs in with two outs continued, with 12 of the 29 runs over these five games being scored with two outs on the board. The Knights will have to carry on this two-out success entering conference play in order to be successful.

The Week(end) Ahead

The Knights are heading out of the state of Florida for a handful of games for the first time in the 2024 campaign, beginning conference games up at Oklahoma for the weekend. In this series, expect a whole lot of runs to be scored by both sides.

The Sooners, currently sitting at 6-5 with wins over teams such as Tennessee and Nebraska, has a lineup that contains six regulars with an OPS [on-base plus slugging percentages] north of 1.000. As a team, their walk rate is at 13% with a strikeout rate just under 17%, showing that they will provide the Knight’s pitching staff with some tough battles all game.

The pitching, however, has been shaky. Their group of moundmen thus far have allowed more than a baserunner and a half per inning, with a team WHIP of 1.655 through their 11 games. Combine that with the Knights’ team on-base percentage of .414 and we should be prepared for a lot of traffic.

Friday – 1 PM — Saturday – 3 PM — Sunday – 1 PM – All games on ESPN+

Players to Watch

  • John Spikerman – Center Field
    • Leads the Sooners with a .476 average and .520 OBP, along with eight stolen bases. Spikerman is no stranger to getting on base and making sure to not stick around in one spot too long, having a total of 59 steals in his collegiate career, including 12 in summer ball last year.
      • Fun Note: This name is easy to accidentally type “Spiderman®” instead.
  • Michael Snyder – Third Base, First Base
    • Leads Oklahoma hitters in RBI with 13 and OPS at 1.230. Snyder has eight extra-base hits which includes two home runs. He’s also been hit by pitch three times which ties for the team lead.
  • Easton Carmichael – Catcher, DH
    • Second in multiple categories on offense for the Sooners, including average and RBI, and tied for the team lead in Total Bases with 28.
  • Braden DavisJamie HittBrendan Girton – Pitchers
    • All three pitchers listed here have strong swing-and-miss stuff, despite their high WHIPs. They top the Sooners’ pitchers in strikeouts with 19, 17, and 14 respectively, all with K/9s over 13 on the season.
    • Davis has yet to give up a homer this year.

What’s At Stake?

A strong start in Big 12 conference play is, of course, the primary goal for UCF this weekend. With a series win, the Knights could begin to close in on the top 25, as indicated by D1 Baseball’s Kendall Rogers in his week three wrap-up.

Additionally, they have a chance to avenge the football team from the loss up in Norman in the fall!

Will the Knights be able to continue this momentum as Big 12 play begins? We’re about to find out.

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.

1 Comment

  1. Tony Feudo

    Great stuff Michael. Go Knights!


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