MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Sam Moll struck out 11 and Heath Hatfield struck out four of the six batters he faced as the University of Memphis baseball team (16-13, 3-4 C-USA) prevailed 2-1 in a pitcher’s duel in the opening game of the series with UCF (18-13, 4-3 C-USA), Friday, at FedExPark.
A nine-pitch at-bat earned the UCF leadoff man a walk in the first inning, but Memphis caught him stealing to erase the freebie. Memphis’ starter (Moll) allowed a leadoff single in the second and the Knights cashed in with a RBI double to rightfield from James Vasquez. Chris Talladay reached on the infield single and scored from first on the one-out double by Vasquez. But Moll stranded Vasquez at second to end the second inning with Memphis trailing 1-0.
After UCF stranded runners on first and second in the top of the third, Memphis rallied for two runs in the third to grab a 2-1 lead. Back-to-back singles by Carter White and Drew Griffin sparked the rally. A sacrifice bunt from Ford Wilson advanced the runners to second and third. A wild pitch allowed White to score and a walk to Ethan Gross put runners on the corners with one out. UCF starter Ben Lively, who finished with five strikeouts and allowed just six hits, had allowed just two earned runs entering the game but a second wild pitch in the inning matched that total, scoring Griffin from third and giving Memphis a 2-1 lead.
Moll settled into a groove and allowed no hits over the next four innings, striking out eight. After throwing 117 pitches over seven innings, Moll finished one shy of his career-high 12 strikeouts. He walked two and allowed four hits, all in the first three innings. The 11 strikeouts marked the fourth time in his career he recorded 10 or more punch outs with three of the four occasions coming this season.
Memphis recorded three hits after the two-run third, but didn’t advance a runner to second base. Lively pitched a complete game for UCF, but took the loss to fall to 5-2 on the season.
Heith Hatfield took over for Moll in the eighth and got two pop-outs on three pitches. The next batter worked a full-count, but Hatfield got the called third strike to sit down the side in order. He then struck out the side in order in the ninth to secure the victory. He has now retired 17 straight batters, striking out eight, that he has faced dating back to the March 26th game against Middle Tennessee. He picked up the save, his first of this season and the sixth of his career.
The Tigers will face UCF, Saturday, at 2 p.m. at FedExPark.