JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Missed opportunities at the plate spoiled what was otherwise a strong pitching performance as the Jacksonville staff combined for 18 strikeouts in a 5-3 loss to UCF in 10 innings on Tuesday night at Sessions Stadium. The 18 strikeouts are the most in a single game by the Dolphins pitching staff since before the 2001 season.
“This was a different club tonight,” said Head Coach Tim Montez. “They really upped their intensity and focus and if I can get this kind of effort from this point forward I think these guys will start to see things turned around very soon.”
UCF (6-2) didn’t put the bat on the ball often, but connected when it counted in the top of the 10th. James Vasquez nailed a two-out, two run double to center to break a 3-3 tie and give the Knights the 5-3 advantage. Jacksonville (1-6) didn’t go away easy in the bottom of the inning however. A leadoff single by Connor Marabell (Jacksonville, Fla.) started things off as the Dolphins loaded the bases with one out, but a strikeout and a ground out ended the rally.
“Tonight was a tough loss, but these guys just have to stay with it, stay together and keep grinding,” Montez said. “You are not going to see to many box scores when you strike out 18 and come up on the short end.”
Jacksonville grabbed an early 1-0 in the second inning when a sacrifice fly by Michael Babb (Jacksonville, Fla.) scored Dylan Dillard (Kissimmee, Fla.) who singled to start the inning. Jordan Savinon tied it up for UCF in the third with a home run to right to lead off the inning.
An unearned run that came across on a fielder’s choice ground out put the Knights back on top 2-1 in the top of the fourth. The Dolphins answered backed to tie the game in the bottom half when Braddock Rowe (Jacksonville, Fla.) lined a two out single to center to scored Babb from second.
UCF countered with another unearned run that again came across on a fielder choice in the fifth for a 3-2 advantage. The Dolphins avoided farther disaster however as Will Flor (Bloomington, Minn.) recorded the first of his five strikeouts to leave the bases loaded for the Knights.
Flor continued to cruise over the next three innings retiring eight straight batters before giving way to fellow senior Adam Maxon (Oviedo, Fla.) with two outs and two on in the eighth. Maxon kept the Dolphins in the game with a 3-2 strikeout on a six pitch at bat, then sent the Knights down in order with two strikeouts in the ninth.
“Our two seniors, Flor and Maxon came out of the pen and did an outstanding job on the back end,” Montez said. “That’s what you are expecting from your two seniors when you give them the ball”
With Flor and Maxon mastering UCF at the plate, the Dolphins used the hustle of Cameron Gibson (Conyers, Ga.) to tie the game in the seventh. Gibson lined a two-out shot to right center and when the outfielders were slow to the ball he turned the would be single into a double. With a runner now in scoring position, Marabell drove a single to center that brought Gibson into score just ahead of the throw.
Maxon (0-1), who had six Ks in 2.1 innings, struck out the first batter he faced in the 10th, but a passed ball allowed the runner to reach first and eventually spelled doom for the Dolphins. Maxon's appearance was the 89th in his career for Jacksonville matching a school record he now shares with Joel Hegeman (1996-99).
After a rough outing on Saturday, Dolphin starter Alex McRae (West Allis, Wis.) returned to form in the opening innings retiring all six hitters he faced and posting three strikeouts,
“McRae really set the tone today with his demeanor was much more aggressive.” Montez said. “That’s the guys I think we’ll see from this point forward.”
Gibson, Marabell and Khalil Searcy (Jacksonville, Fla) each had two hits to lead Jacksonville.
The Dolphins game against Florida A&M on Wednesday has been canceled due to rain.