Championship Saturday ended with slumped shoulders, but the University of Central Florida Knights still have a reason to hold their heads high: They nearly beat the No. 5 team in the nation to end the season with a championship. They came one game short.
But that game was one of continuing frustration for the Knights, who fought early to hold onto parity with a Rice team’s hot bats that drilled UCF pitching early. After the first inning, the Knights struggled to find holes in the Owls’ defense, to a stifling degree.
Only once did the Knights manage a hit while a runner was on base. They left a dozen stranded after innings started strongly. In two straight innings, trailing 4-1, the Knights put two runners on base with an out or less, only to watch the inning collapse instantly with quick double plays.
That took the wind out of the Knights’ sails in situations when they usually found a divine wind. D.J. Hicks still found a way through the Owls’ brick wall defense, picking up both of his teams’ two RBI.
But it wouldn’t be enough to stop the red hot Owls, who won 5-2.
The season isn’t nearly over for the Knights, who enter the Conference USA Tournament with not only the best record in their pod, but a shot at revenge. If they can win their first three games, they’ll take on the winner of the other pod in the C-USA tourney, likely Rice.
The Tournament starts Thursday in Pearl, Miss. Game 1 will take the first pitch at noon Thursday against UAB, then at 4 p.m. Friday against East Carolina, then at noon Saturday against Tulane. The Knights have wins against all three of those teams this season.