Knights clinch best start in program history in walk-off fashion


Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

JoMarcos Woods scored in the eighth inning and then had a walk-off single in the ninth.

ORLANDO — The 15th-ranked UCF baseball program pulled out all of the stops during a 5-4 win over No. 18 Ole Miss on Friday to earn their first 9-0 start in program history.

Senior JoMarcos Woods came through in the clutch for the Knights, hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game for UCF.

“Our guys did a terrific job,” said Knights’ head coach Terry Rooney. “The confidence in these guys, the determination throughout this entire season. We’ve found different ways to win and those guys did it; couldn’t be prouder of their efforts. The beginning of the game, the first two-thirds of the game [there were] some things we can tighten up on obviously, [but] at the end of the day it’s about the bottom line.

“We talk about it all of the time, a team win and that was a tremendous team win. Guys just hung in there, [had] great at bats and made great pitches.”

The Knights trailed the Rebels 4-0 entering the sixth inning, but began to rally back toward tying the game in the bottom-half of the inning. Dylan Moore started things off by singling before Derrick Salberg managed to reach base after getting hit by a pitch with no outs.

Erik Barber advanced Moore to third base on a flyout to right field. Designated hitter Matt Diorio brought in the first run for the Knights on a groundout to second base. The Knights finished off the sixth inning with a Tommy Williams RBI single to right field, which cut the lead to 4-2.

After holding the Rebels scoreless in the seventh and eighth innings, the Knights tied up the game in the bottom of the eighth with the top of the order at the plate. Woods led off the inning with a double and then scored on the following at bat on a double by Moore. Salberg advanced Moore to third base on a single and then would score on a sacrifice fly to right field by Barber.

The Knights bullpen again held the Rebels scoreless in the ninth inning and arrived with the game’s momentum and a chance to win the game in the bottom half of the final frame.

James Vasquez put the Knights in position to win on a double with one out in the ninth inning. Following Vasquez’s double, Rooney opted to bring in Kam Gellinger to pinch run for Vasquez with the game in reach. Woods arrived to the plate three batters later and would send the game-winning hit to left field with two outs.

“I’ve worked so hard for this moment and [wanted] to get a good pitch and take a good swing at it,” Woods said on the game-winning hit. “I had a walk-off hit against UAB my freshman year but it’s not anything against Ole Miss, a top-20 program in the country. It’s definitely a dream come true; it’s probably the best hit I’ve ever had for sure.”

Knights reliever Harrison Hukari was the winning pitcher after pitching a perfect ninth inning which lowered his ERA to 2.16. Starter Zach Rodgers finished the game by giving up two runs (one earned) in 4.2 innings while striking out seven Ole Miss batters.

UCF and Ole Miss continue the three-game weekend series on Saturday with the first pitch coming at 4 p.m. Cre Finfrock is the projected starter for UCF while Bradley Bramlett is expected to take the mound for Ole Miss.