baseball

American Baseball Championship will be on the line when UCF hosts USF

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UCFSports.com

UCF and USF will be playing for a championship when the two rivals meet in Orlando this upcoming Thursday through Saturday in the final American Athletic Conference series of the season.

With three games left to play, the Knights and Bulls along with Houston (13-8) are deadlocked in a three-way tie for first place. UConn, a game out at 12-9, hasn't been eliminated but will need some help to get to the top.

After UCF won the first two games at Cincinnati, the Knights had a chance to pull ahead in the standings but were unable to secure the finale, losing 8-5. Houston had a similar opportunity, but dropped their Sunday game against Tulane. USF, who entered the weekend one game ahead of UCF and Houston, lost two of three games at UConn.

UCF has won six of their seven American series, the only blip being swept in three games at USF early in the conference season. As the Knights and Bulls are among the pairs that meet twice during the regular season, UCF has a chance for retribution this final weekend.

With identical records and three upcoming games each other, UCF and USF cannot finish with tied records. Should UCF, Houston and/or UConn finish in a tie, UCF would hold tiebreakers against both by virtue of winning the series.

Also in Thursday-Saturday action, Houston hosts Cincinnati while UConn welcomes East Carolina in a series that will alternate between Hartford and Storrs. The series are bumped up a day to give teams an extra day to rest before the league tournament begins the following Tuesday in Clearwater.

For UCF, it's simple. They must win this weekend's series to keep title hopes alive. Here's what needs to happen to clinch a share of the regular season championship:

-If UCF sweeps USF and finishes 16-8, they will clinch no worse than a share of the regular championship and will be the outright champion if Houston loses at least one game to Cincinnati.

-If UCF wins two of three games against USF to finish 15-9, as long as Houston drops at least one game, the Knights can clinch no worse than a share. It's possible UConn can also reach the 15-win mark if they sweep ECU.

First pitch on Thursday and Friday is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday's game, UCF's Senior Day, is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will also have national television coverage from CBS Sports Network.

UCF also has one non-conference game left, a Tuesday date at FAU.

Regardless of what happens in the conference championship race, UCF appears on track to go to their first NCAA Regional since 2012. The Knights (36-16) are holding steady with a No. 24 RPI and have been a consensus pick to make it into the field of 64.

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