Tigers open C-USA Tournament with win
Houston, TX-Carter White had a career high three RBI and Memphis (34-23) used the 10th quality start by Sam Moll to defeat UCF (29-28) 6-1 at Reckling Park in the first game of the C-USA Tournament.
UCF put a runner on third with less than two outs in the second, but Moll kept the Knights off the board. Moll hit Brett Gordon with a pitch to start the inning and Gordon moved to scoring position on a balk. A groundout to first moved the runner to third, but Moll struck out the next two hitters to strand the runner at third.
In the first and second innings, Memphis put runners on first with less than two out, but UCF didn’t allow any to reach second base. After a leadoff infield single by Zach Willis, the Knights induced a double play to end the threat. The Tigers got a two-out hit from Carter White in the inning, but couldn’t add anything in the frame. Drew Griffin worked a one-out walk in the second, but he was picked off at first. Keaton Aldridge got the Tigers second two out hit of the day, but a strikeout ended the second.
The Tigers gave Moll a one-run lead to work with in the bottom of the third. Willis hit a one-out double down the leftfield line and Ethan Gross reached on the Tigers third infield single in the game to put runners on first and third with one out. Carter White lifted a sacrifice fly to right-centerfield and Willis raced home to put Memphis ahead 1-0.
UCF answered in the sixth with a two-out triple by Ryan Breen knotted the game at 1-1. A two-out walk to Erik Barber opened the door for the Knights. With Barber taking off for second on the hit-and-run, Breen laced the triple to the gap in left-centerfield to easily score Barber. Moll struck out the next hitter to erase the chance for UCF to grab the lead in the sixth.
Memphis responded with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead to the later third of the game. Making his school record 150th consecutive start, Gross led off the sixth with a triple to the rightfield corner. White singled to left field to collect his second RBI of the game. After two fly outs, Aldridge singled up the middle to give Memphis the 3-1 advantage.
The Tigers didn’t stop there as three more runs scored in the seventh to lead 6-1. A leadoff walk to Ford Wilson sparked the three-run inning and Willis followed with his third hit of the game to put two runners on with no outs. Gross was hit by a pitch to load the bases and White collected his third RBI, a career-high, with his second sacrifice fly of the day. With runners on second and third with one out, Tucker Tubbs singled to centerfield and two more runs scored to set the eventual final score of 6-1.
White finished with the career-high three RBI to go with a 2-for-2 afternoon at the plate. Willis logged his fourth three-hit game of the season to lead the Tigers while Gross and Aldridge chipped in with two-hit days. Memphis out-hit the Knights 12-4 on the game, 10 of which came off of the UCF starter Lively.
Moll pitched seven innings and allowed one run on four hits for his 10th quality start in 15 starts on the year. The First Team All-Conference selection struck out six to move one strikeout shy of Collins Day fifth place career strikeout total of 214. Jonathan Van Eaton was perfect in two innings of relief not allowing a hit against six batters.
The Tigers improve to 14-21 all-time in the C-USA Tournament and 61-61 in league tournaments throughout program history. Memphis improves to 25-2 on the season when scoring five or more runs while the Tiger pitching staff lowered its ERA to 2.91.
Memphis continues pod play in the C-USA Tournament on Thursday, taking on eighth-seeded UAB at 3 p.m. at Reckling Park.