UCF's Rooney Wins Head Coaching Debut 10-2

UCF baseball's fifth-largest crowd in program history filled the stands to witness head coach Terry Rooney pick up a victory in his first game, as the Knights took down Virginia Commonwealth, 10-2, on Opening Day Friday. A total of 1,897 fans packed the park and they were greeted by a UCF offense that posted 13 hits in the win.

"Obviously I'm very proud of the guys," said Rooney. "They've been waiting for this day for the last several months. We faced a very good starting pitcher from VCU (lefty Ian Thomas), and we don't have any left-handed pitchers on our team. So to go out on opening night and see a left-handed pitcher shows the intensity and focus of which are players had against him. They battled throughout the entire game.

"This morning I just tried to sit back for a few moments and really take it all in. I feel very fortunate to be the head baseball coach here at UCF. We've got a tremendous administration with Keith Tribble and Dave Hansen. They showed a lot of confidence in me and I told them when they hired me that I'm not going to let them down. And I don't plan to do that."

Making his second-career Opening Day start, senior Kyle Sweat retired the first five hitters he faced, including striking out three straight at one point. He would finish with 5.0 innings of work, giving up five hits, walking one and sitting down seven on strikes, which was one shy of his career-high.

Sweat was backed by offensive attack paced by senior Brandon Romans. The catcher matched a personal-best with three RBI, highlighted by a two-run blast in the seventh inning. Meanwhile, senior Eric Kallstrom wrapped up his evening with three hits and scored two runs.

Both pitchers looked very strong early on, as VCU managed just two hits through the first four innings and UCF notched its first hit in the bottom of the fourth against Thomas. That inning opened up when senior Colin Arnold was plunked by a pitch, and two batters later junior Chris Duffy blooped a single into left to put runners at the corners. Although senior Kiko Vazquez lined to second for the second out, Romans ripped the first pitch he saw into center to plate Arnold and give UCF a 1-0 lead.

VCU wasted little time trying to even it up in the top of the fifth, getting a leadoff single from Matt Leskiw. Following a fielder's choice that put Richard Gonzalez at first and one down, Andrew Dimino blasted a single to right. Arnold scooped up the ball, saw Gonzalez rounding second and fired a one-hopper to junior Shane Brown at third who easily tagged out the potential tying run.

That inning was not over, though. A pair of two-out singles allowed the Rams to load the bases, bringing up cleanup hitter Michael Cheatham. Opening up with a breaking ball to make it 0-1, Cheatham fouled off the next pitch before watching the third strike paint the top half of the zone, ending the threat.

Thomas then got into some major trouble in the home half, as the Knights hoped for some breathing room. With runners at first and third and no outs, Thomas was called for a balk to make it 2-0, then senior Nick Choto and Arnold both picked up infield hits. With the bags full, Brown had a 10-pitch at-bat that closed out with the junior cranking a single to right-center. UCF added another run on a bases-loaded walk to Duffy, giving way to Seth Cutler-Voltz in the pen. Even with a new pitcher on the hill, Vazquez drove in Arnold on a single of his own, and the fifth run of the frame touched home on a double-play ball.

Now holding a 6-0 advantage, the Knights went to the pen as well for the sixth inning, where sophomore Evan Stobbs surrendered one run to put VCU on the board. The Rams put across one more in the seventh on a sac fly, but the momentum would be short lived. With two down in the bottom of the seventh, Vazquez lifted a ball into center where Dimino camped under yet could not come down with the third out. Romans made VCU pay, driving the next pitch well over the left-field wall, past West Plaza Drive and into the woods to stretch the lead to 8-2.

The game's scoring came to a close in the eighth, where Choto tallied a RBI base hit and Brown connected for a sacrifice fly. Stobbs went on to earn his first collegiate save by pitching at least the final three innings, going 4.0 frames with three strikeouts and no walks.

UCF's four-game series with the Rams continues Saturday at 4 p.m.


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