The Miami Hurricanes may have taken the UCF Knights a little too lightly Tuesday night as UCF (14-8) doubled up the No. 12 Hurricanes 6-3 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
Earlier this month, Miami annihilated the Knights 19-2 in Orlando as the Knights were plagued by committing six errors. On Tuesday, the Knights played solid defense and turned three double plays to propel the Canes toward an upset victory.
“We didn’t play the game offensively as well as I would have liked to and we didn’t play the game intelligently,” head coach Jim Morris said. “We didn’t get it done when we had opportunities offensively. Bottom line is I don’t think we were ready to play mentally today. We have to play the game hard every day. It doesn’t matter what the score was last time. We are now 1-1 with Central Florida.”
The Hurricanes lost a midweek game for the second time in three tries. Last week they lost to Fordham.
“The midweek games are killing us right now,” senior first baseman Scott Lawson said. “It seems like during the weekends we are so locked in and so mentally strong but we just don’t carry that into midweek games. We really need to be focused because all of these midweek teams are hungry to beat us because it really looks good on their resume because they are not in powerhouse conferences.”
Freshman right-hander E.J. Encinosa got his first career start and he was electric. Encinosa, standing at 6 feet, 4 inches and 230 pounds, struck out seven batters in three innings of work. He was limited because he had been a reliever in his nine previous outings so he was not stretched out.
“E.J. had been throwing so good,” Morris said. “We said this guy needs to pitch more. E.J. had been lights out coming out of the bullpen and Steven [Ewing] had thrown well his past starts but not as well as E.J.”
The Knights scored one run off of Encinosa, but the Canes responded in the bottom of the fourth inning with a line drive two-run home run by Lawson over the right field wall. Lawson finished 3-for-4 and has three multi-hit games in his last four outings.
“[Morris] brought me in his office,” Lawson said. “He knew I was trying to do too much. It’s easy to bring your average up when it’s so low. I was putting too much pressure on myself. Now I am more relaxed.”
UCF grabbed the lead in the fifth that they would never relinquish. They scored three runs off freshman Steven Ewing (2-2) who suffered the loss.
The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to climb back in the game and gain momentum in the bottom of the sixth inning.
They trailed 4-2 and had runners at second and third with one out. But two of the Hurricanes hottest hitters, junior Yasmani Grandal and sophomore Harold Martinez, struck out looking to end the inning.
“You have to put the ball in play,” Morris said. “We had the right guys at the plate. Those are the guys you want at the plate in that situation and we didn’t get it done when we had the opportunity.”
UCF would add two solo home runs in the top of the eighth as insurance runs.
Other than Encinosa and Lawson, a bright spot for the Hurricanes was seeing senior Taylor Wulf and sophomore Travis Miller pitch well as they both return from major off-season elbow surgeries.
Wulf pitched a third of an inning in his second appearance of the year and Miller threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning in his first appearance since last year’s Regionals.
Next up, the Hurricanes head to North Carolina for the second time in as many weekends. This time they face N.C. State (14-7).
“N.C. State is a good hitting team. They are always tough. They are a blue collar team. It’s always a tough place to play at too,” Morris said.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.