UCF's Vazquez Homers Twice in Loss at LSU

UCF hung with No. 1 LSU through six innings before the Tigers got to the Knights' relief corps late in a 13-4 loss Friday at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. Senior Kiko Vazquez delivered two homers in a game for the second time this season as the Black and Gold dropped to 2-3 overall.

"I thought our guys really battled tonight," said head coach Terry Rooney, who was facing his former team that he worked for the previous two seasons. "We absolutely, as a team, came ready to go tonight. They were ready to play and expected to win. They hustled the whole time and I'm really proud of them. The whole key is being able to put together nine complete innings. LSU is an awesome team and is very well coached, and what great teams do is take advantage of miscues and opportunities."

Playing before a paid attendance of 9,903 at LSU (5-0), Vazquez shined. The first baseman homered in the fifth and ninth innings to give him 20 long balls for his career. He also sent two out of the yard against Virginia Commonwealth Feb. 21.

From its very first swing, LSU's offense was quick to show up. In the bottom of the first, Leon Landry led off by driving a 1-0 pitch from senior Kyle Sweat over the right-field wall for his fourth homer of the year. With the huge crowd already on its feet, Sweat did not feel distracted, striking out the next two hitters. Micah Gibbs stepped in and bounced a two-strike pitch that glanced off the outstretched glove of Sweat, as it appeared Gibbs would pick up the infield single. However, shortstop Eric Kallstrom drove in, barehanded and threw him out at first to end the frame.

When the home half of the second appeared, DJ LeMahieu greeted the Knights with solo home run to left. The Tigers went on to plate one more run to stretch their lead to 3-0.

Sweat's counterpart, LSU sophomore Anthony Ranaudo, was making his first-career Friday night start, and the righty breezed through the first three innings without letting a runner on base. In the fourth, UCF did come within a couple feet of cutting the deficit to 3-2. After a two-out base hit from junior Shane Brown, classmate Chris Duffy hammered the first pitch he saw to dead center only to have Landry haul it in at the base of the fence.

LSU returned to the plate in its half and was poised to put the game out of reach. With two down and the bases juiced for Landry, the center fielder popped one foul down the first-base line. Sprinting after it from first, Vazquez made a sliding over-the-shoulder catch on the artificial warning track just before the bullpen, keeping the margin at three runs.

In baseball, all too often after making a great effort in the field the player responds right away at the dish, and that's exactly what happened for the UCF senior. Getting the fifth underway, Vazquez demolished the first pitch from Ranaudo over the bleachers in left field for his third jack of 2009. The Black and Gold continued to send outfielders racing back, with freshman Beau Taylor two batters later putting left fielder Chad Jones on his heels. Just like Duffy's blast in the fourth, though, it fell just shy.

Sweat was relieved in the fifth in favor of sophomore Evan Stobbs, as the UCF starter finished with four innings of work and six strikeouts. Stobbs faced trouble in his first inning of work, walking two only to escape. LSU put two more aboard in the sixth, yet witnessed Stobbs induce Landry to ground into a 1-6-3 inning-ending double play.

As the UCF pitching staff was busy holding LSU's powerful offense at bay, Brown opened the seventh by doubling to the right-center gap. Now faced with the tying run at the plate, Ranaudo earned his 10th strikeout before the Tigers went to the bullpen. Paul Bertuccini had the task of facing Vazquez and somehow survived when he smoked a line drive to left but it was right to Jones who made the putout. Even though the right-hander then walked freshman D.J. Hicks on four pitches, Bertuccinni picking up a strikeout to put a halt to UCF's plans.

That proved to be important as the Tigers pounced on UCF in the bottom half, where LeMahieu drove a three-run homer to center with one down to give his team a 6-1 advantage. While it may have stung on the scoreboard, the Knights kept fighting. Following a one-out double off the bat of freshman Austin Smith in the eighth, senior Chadd Hartman dug in as a pinch-hitter and immediately sent a two-out RBI single to left-center, making it 6-2.

LSU wrapped up its scoring in the final trip to the plate, posting a seven-spot in the eighth. Vazquez ultimately put the finishing touches on his performance in the top of the ninth, driving a two-run no-doubter to left-center, his fourth four-bagger of 2009.

UCF resumes its three-game series Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. ET.


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