GREENVILLE, N.C. – Ben Lively tossed a complete game, four-hit shutout helping UCF (29-25, 13-9) to a Conference USA series opening 2-0 win over East Carolina (28-24, 12-10) Thursday night at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Lively, who improved to 7-4 on the season, fanned seven batters while walking just one for his second shutout of the season. The right-hander retired the side in order seven times and allowed just two Pirate runners to reach second base.
Jeff Hoffman (6-6) suffered the loss despite just two runs (both earned) on six hits with five strikeouts and six walks in eight innings. For the righty, it was his team leading 11th quality start and the eighth-straight start where he has worked into the eighth inning. Brett Mabry made his 15th appearance out of the bullpen tossing a scoreless ninth frame.
UCF jumped out to an early 1-0 lead plating a run in the top of the first frame. Erik Hempe doubled to right center on the third pitch of the game and took third on James Vasquez’ fly ball to left field. Chris Taladay drove in his league-leading 43rd run on a sac fly to center pushing across Hempe.
JoMarcos Woods’ RBI double in the fourth extended the Knights lead to 2-0. Bret Gordon walked to start the stanza and came around to score on Woods’ 10th extra base hit of the season.
ECU finally recorded its first hit of the game in the fourth when Bryan Bass reached on an infield single to short, but Jack Reinheimer grounded into the twin-killing wiping off the leadoff single. Drew Reynolds followed with the first of his two hits on the day to center and moved into scoring position on his fifth stolen base of the year. But Lively squashed the potential scoring threat getting Zach Houchins to line out to end the frame.
In the fifth inning, Hempe made the play of the game robbing Chase McDonald of a home run in right field. McDonald squared up a 1-2 offering from Lively sending a long fly ball over the right field wall, but Hempe extended his 6-foot-2 frame making the saving catch.
The seventh inning proved to be an offensive opportunity for both squads. Austin Johnston led off with a single to center and took second on Ryan Breen’s sac bunt. After Hempe flied out to right field, Vasquez drew a two-out walk putting runners on first and second. Taladay singled to right on the next pitch for what looked to be his second RBI of the evening, but Jay Cannon fired a strike home nailing Johnston at the plate to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the stanza, ECU looked to be in business. Reynolds singled to left and Houchins followed with a single through the left side with one out to extend his hit streak to 12 games. But Lively once again buckled down and retired McDonald on a fly out to right and Ben Fultz on an infield pop-out to short.
The Pirates will look to rebound and try to even the weekend series when they return to the diamond Friday, May 17. Prior to the 6 p.m. (ET) first pitch, ECU will recognize nine seniors as well as four recent graduates starting at 5:35 p.m.