ORLANDO, Fla. -- Trailing 4-0 in the seventh inning, Columbia cut its deficit in half but could not complete the comeback and fell to Central Florida, 4-2, in the final game of the Lions' 10-day, 10-game spring break trip.
The Knights scratched out an unearned run in the first inning after leadoff man Travis Shreve drew a walk, stole second base, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on an error.
Central Florida made it 2-0 in the fourth, starting the one-out rally when Beau Taylor lined a pitch that hit Columbia starter Dan Bracey in the left hip. Bracey was knocked down by the line drive but regrouped to get out of the inning with just a run across.
The Knights made it 4-0 with two runs in the fifth but rookie left-hander David Speer shut down Central Florida from there, limiting the Knights to a sixth-inning single and nothing more the rest of the way.
After Central Florida starter Ray Hanson held Columbia scoreless through six innings, Columbia finally got to him in the seventh.
Hanson was able to keep the game at 4-2 through seven as Central Florida closer Joe Rogers came on in the eighth.
Dario Pizzano and Nick Ferraresi each singled to give the Lions two runners on base with one out in the eighth. Rogers then induced a 4-6-3 double play to escape the jam and retired the side in the ninth to earn his third save.
Columbia finishes its southern swing with a 5-5 mark and holds a 7-6 record overall this season. Central Florida improved its record to 16-4 with the win.
Bracey allowed three earned runs in five innings, struck out three and walked one. Speer retired the final nine batters he faced in relief, striking out one without a walk.
The Lions are back in action next Saturday, March 26 in their home opener at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium. Columbia will open a four-game series against Holy Cross beginning at 1 p.m.
Nick Cox stole second base and third base during the same at-bat in the third inning ... Columbia was four for four in stolen base attempts during the series ... Dan Bracey made a nice fielding play on a bunt in the second inning when he fielded it and while falling down, fired a strike to first for the out ... the game took just two hours and fifteen minutes to complete ... Central Florida had received votes in the latest polls produced by USA Today and the National College Baseball Writers Association.