No. 6 UCF Walks Off Against No. 15 Houston

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Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

JoMarcos Woods finished Sunday's game with a walk and an RBI in the Knights' win.

ORLANDO, Fla. — James Vasquez’s bases-loaded RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the No. 6 UCF Knights to a 4-3 win over the No. 15 Houston Cougars on Sunday afternoon in front of 1,281 at Jay Bergman Field.

Sunday’s series-clinching win ensures the Knights (22-7, 2-1 American) of their sixth consecutive home weekend series win.

“I couldn’t be [more] proud of our kids today,” UCF head coach Terry Rooney said. “We talked about it yesterday – this game was going to come down to one or two pitches and you just got to play one or two better and we did that. The guys hung in there, did a terrific job [and] executed there late.”

Trailing 3-2 heading into the ninth inning, the Knights began to rally behind the top of the order. Cougars pitcher Seth Romero gave up a leadoff single to Kyle Marsh, then hit Erik Barber to put two runners on base for the Knights.

Designated hitter Matt Diorio then followed with a bunt down the third baseline and reached base on a throwing error which allowed Marsh to score from second base to tie the game up at 3. The Cougars then opted to walk Tommy Williams to load the bases to set up Vasquez’s game-winning hit.

Vasquez finished the game by going 3-for-5 with a run and the go-ahead RBI to win the game.

“[Vasquez] is a great player,” Rooney said. “He’s one of our leaders, [he has] done a terrific job. That shows you right there the poise that he has. He had the opportunity earlier, didn’t get it done. All that matters is that at-bat and that’s why JV is a great player. He’s able to put the other at-bat to the side and focus on the present and he’s done a terrific job.”

Houston (19-9, 1-2 American) scored two runs in the second inning to take a 2-1 lead, which prompted Rooney to pull starting pitcher Eric Hepple for reliever Zach Rodgers. In relief of Hepple, Rodgers allowed five hits on one run over eight innings of work to earn his fourth win of the year.

“Zach Rodgers was tremendous,” Rooney said. “[He] comes in there and just does his job. He has been so unselfish this entire season. He was out of the rotation, in the rotation [and] doing a lot of roles for us. Rodgers was terrific today. [He] provided us the opportunity to win it late and then the guys collectively as a team to hang in there and do what we did late.”

Following Sunday’s win, the Knights will have a day off before their next game on Tuesday at home against No. 20 Florida Atlantic.

The Knights will then continue conference play in Cincinnati next weekend against the Bearcats for a three-game series beginning on Friday. The Knights will return home on April 7 to take on Jacksonville.