ORLANDO — When sophomore pinch runner Kam Gellinger slid across home plate in the bottom of the ninth, every Knight had one thing on their mind: mob senior outfielder JoMarcos Woods. The Orlando, Fla., native capped off a memorable walk-off comeback Friday as No. 21 UCF beat No. 23 Ole Miss 5-4 at the UCF Baseball Complex.
With the score knotted at 4-4, Woods stepped to the plate with runners at first and second and two down.
On a 1-0 count against Wyatt Short, the senior, who led off the eighth inning with a double to help the Knights tie the contest, laced a liner past a diving Errol Robinson at shortstop and into left field. Kyle Watson scooped it right as Gellinger rounded third, however his throw was off line and the party was underway.
“[I] just [wanted to] stay calm, believe that I have worked so hard for this moment. I just tried to get a good pitch and take a good swing” said Woods, who was served up a celebratory shaving-cream pie by sophomore designated hitter Matt Diorio during postgame interviews. “I have been working really hard this past year, it’s my last year, and I want to go out with a bang. This team has been working really hard and we deserve every win.”
UCF stayed perfect with a 9-0 record, marking its best start in school history.
“Our guys did a terrific job,” head coach Terry Rooney said. “We have found different ways to win. I could not be prouder of their efforts. … At the end of the day, it is about the bottom line and these guys came together for a team win. That was a tremendous team win.”
The Knights trailed 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth against the Rebels (5-3), which was the squad’s largest deficit of the season. It was UCF’s third win against a ranked team this year.
The second victory of the season was notched by junior lefty Harrison Hukari, who tossed a perfect top of the ninth inning. Senior righty Zach Rodgers tallied a career-best seven strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work.
Ole Miss took the lead in the first on a two-out single by Henri Lartigue that scored J.B. Woodman, who doubled to lead off the game. It added another run in the fifth, and tacked on a pair of runs to extend the lead to 4-0 in the sixth inning. The Knights quickly responded in the bottom half.
Senior second baseman Dylan Moore started the frame with a single to short and advanced to second when senior center fielder Derrick Salberg was hit by a pitch. An RBI ground out by Diroio and single from senior third baseman Tommy Williams cut the Knights deficit in half, 4-2.
With Ole Miss threatening and a pair of runs in scoring position in the eighth inning, sophomore Drew Faintich entered in relief of senior Spencer Davis with two outs on the board. The lefty proceeded to get Sikes Orvis to go down swinging to keep the Rebels’ lead to two.
In the home half, connecting on a double down the right field line was Woods to chase the Rebels’ starter Christian Trent, who finished with three strikeouts in seven-plus innings. Moore followed with an RBI double to the right-center gap and after a ground out, senior center fielder Erik Barber delivered a sac fly to knot the contest, 4-4, setting up the memorable finish.
The loss was tagged to Wyatt Short (1-1). The Rebels were led by Workman, who tallied a pair of base knocks.