ORLANDO, Fla. -- Central Florida's Ben Lively and Nick Cicio combined to hold Columbia to two runs on three hits as the Knights grabbed an early 3-0 lead and held on for a 5-2 victory in the middle game of the three-game series between the two clubs. Jason Banos homered for the second straight game for Columbia, which also received a run-scoring single by Nick Cox.
Central Florida touched Columbia starter Geoff Whitaker for a run in the first inning on consecutive doubles by Darnell Sweeney and Chris Taladay, but Whitaker got Beau Taylor looking at a called third strike and Jonathan Griffin on a grounder to end the frame.
The Knights added two more runs in the second but Whitaker retired six straight batters after a leadoff single in the third to keep Central Florida at bay.
On the other end, Central Florida hurler Ben Lively held Columbia hitless until the fifth inning. Eric Williams led off the fifth with a walk and Alex Ferrera also drew a one-out walk. Two batters later, Cox lined the first pitch he saw from Lively into center field to plate Williams, cutting the deficit to 3-1.
The Knights got a run back in their half of the fifth to make it 4-1, but Columbia reponded in the next half-inning.
With two outs, Banos hammered an 0-1 pitch deep to right-center field off the Bergman Field scoreboard for his second home run in two games. Williams followed with a well-struck double the other way into the left field corner but Lively was able to end the inning on a comebacker to keep the Knights' lead at 4-2.
Stefan Olson came out to pitch for Columbia in the sixth and struck out the first two batters he faced. The Knights mounted a two-out rally on a double by Erik Hempe and a run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Ryan Breen to put Central Florida back up by three, 5-2.
To start the seventh, Nick Cicio came on in relief for Central Florida and did not allow a hit in three innings of work. Cicio picked up his third save of the season.
Whitaker struck out five batters and walked just one in five innings of work. Lively walked four and fanned five in six innings. In relief, Olson struck out three, walked one and allowed a run on three hits in three innings.
Columbia and Central Florida will play the final game of the three-game set on Sunday, March 20 at 1 p.m.
It was just the second time this season that Columbia had been out-hit by an opponent ... Jason Banos moved into eighth place on the all-time runs scored list with 107 and tied for 10th place all-time in runs batted in with 93 ... a Columbia player has homered in each of the last three games ... in the sixth inning, Eric Williams caught the infield napping and stole third base almost before starter Ben Lively had thrown the ball to the plate ... Lively allowed more than one earned run for the first time in four starts this season.