Here’s to the Knight

UCF 10, USF 7

UCF sent 22 batters to plate in the first two innings, scored 10 runs and held onto beat USF 10-7 Tuesday at Jay Bergman Field in Orlando.

“All of a sudden it was 10-1, and that’s very difficult,” coach Eddie Cardieri said.

USF outfielder Bryan Hierlmeier hit two home runs (9), including a grand slam in the sixth inning to bring the Bulls within four of the Golden Knights. Hierlmeier finished the game with five RBI. In the fourth inning, he hit a solo home run. The Bulls added another run in the eighth when Kris Howell drove in Jeremy Bellotti with a single to left field.

“What can you say?” Cardieri said. “(Hierlmeier) hit two of the farthest home runs you’ll ever see.”

The rest of the lineup struggled, with the team striking out 16 times.

“We need to have guys one through nine helping us win,” Cardieri said.

After retiring UCF’s first two batters in the first inning, USF starter Ty Pryor hit Dee Brown, and things got messy as UCF’s next five batters all reached base. Before the Bulls knew it, the Golden Knights were up 5-0.

“That first inning was a mess,” coach Eddie Cardieri said. “They scored five runs with two outs and nobody on, and you just can’t let that happen.”

Pryor (2-3) got the loss and was pulled in the second inning after giving up seven earned runs on four hits. He exited the game after walking the first two batters he faced in the second.

Pryor’s replacement, Yuri Higgins, didn’t fare much better as the Golden Knights (31-8, 11-4) added five runs in the second en route to their third straight win over USF (20-17, 7-4). USF has lost five straight games overall.

The Bulls got on the board in the second inning when Brandon Daniel singled up the middle to bring home Brian Baisley.

With no outs in the third inning, USF had runners on second and third but failed to score as the next three batters were retired.

UCF starter Ray Rodriquez (6-0), who came in with an ERA of 1.89, gave up five runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings pitched and picked up the win.

UCF beat USF 8-7 on April 5 and the two teams meet for the final time this season on April 19 at Red McEwen Field.