CLEARWATER, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – With the season on the line, Dallas Beaver delivered a walk-off single to right field to lift the No. 6 UCF baseball team to an 8-7 win in extra innings over No. 7 Memphis in the elimination game on Wednesday night at Spectrum Field.
“We were just trying to fight for our season,” Beaver said. “Guys were just passing the bat, and the pitchers made some big pitches for us. We continued to battle all night. I got a pitch that I could drive, and Gephry was able to wheel his way around from second.”
UCF trailed by as many as three during the game. After tying it up in the eighth, UCF started the bottom of the 10th off with a single by Ben McCabe. Gephry Pena came in to pinch run for the rookie designated hitter. Brandon Hernandez dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Pena up to second. Two batters later, Beaver took a 1-1 pitch to right field, which gave Pena plenty of time to sprint home for the winning run.
“I’m proud of the guys,” head coach Greg Lovelady said. “For the last three weeks, it feels like it’s been every game that we’ve been fighting. They never gave up. We got off to a horrible start defensively and on the mound. We kept chipping away. The bullpen did a great job putting zeros on the board. We found a way chip away and fight back. Huge job tonight. I’m proud of them.”
The Knights played from behind for most of the game. After Memphis plated a pair of runs in the second, one unearned, Brandon Hernandez put the Knights on the board with an RBI sacrifice fly to center field that allowed Ray Alejo to beat the tag at home.
An inning later, Alejo sent the Black and Gold into the lead with a two-run shot over the wall in left.
The lead quickly evaporated in the top pf the fourth when the Tigers drove in four runs on a pair of homers. Dallas Beaver pulled a run back for UCF on an RBI groundout to second, but Memphis retook a three-run lead with a solo shot in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth with two on and two outs, Ben McCabe ripped a single to left field that brought Alejo in from second. UCF then scored for the fifth straight frame in the sixth when Chandler Robertson drove an RBI single to center field to pull the Black and Gold within one.
When starting pitcher Grant Schuermann made his exit after five innings of work with five strikeouts, the Knights turned to Garrett Westberg and Kyle Kemp to see the game out. The two did not allow a run for the final five innings.
Westberg spun 2 2/2 innings with one strikeout and just two hits allowed and one walk. Kemp took over for his fellow senior with one out and two outs in the eighth. The graduate transfer then fired off 2 1/3 scoreless frames with a trio of strikeouts.
While the Tigers’ offense was held silent for the rest of the night, UCF tied things up in the eighth on an RBI infield single by Dalton Wingo, which set the stage for Beave to pull off some postseason magic.
No. 6 UCF (35-21) – 8, No. 7 Memphis (27-28) – 7
Winning pitcher: Kyle Kemp (1-0)
Losing pitcher: Hunter Smith (5-8)
Top hitters: Matthew Mika (2-3, 1 R, 3 BB), Dallas Beaver (1-4, 2 RBI, 1 BB), Dalton Wingo (3-5, 1 RBI, Chandler Robertson (1-3, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 BB), Ray Alejo (1-5, 3 R, 2 RBI), Ben McCabe (3-5, 1 RBI, 1 R)
Top pitchers: Garrett Westberg (2.2 IP, 1 K, 2 H, 0 R), Kyle Kemp (2.1 IP, 3 K, 0 H, 0 R)
WALKING OFF THE TIGERS
• Wednesday night marked the second time this season that the Knights walked off against the Tigers.
• In the series finale back in April, UCF needed a walk-off single from Jay Lyons to win 7-6.
• The Knights are now 6-1 in walk-offs this season.
OFFENSE STEPS UP
• Ben McCabe and Dalton Wingo each posted three-hit games, their first and fifth of the year, respectively.
• The Knights drew seven walks, topped by a career-best three by Matthew Mika.
• Dallas Beaver notched his team-leading 17th multi-RBI game of the year.
• Wednesday was the first meeting between the two clubs in The American Championship. The all-time series is now tied at 23-23.
• Ray Alejo’s home runs was his eighth of the year and first since May 3 at Tulane.
• Alejo also matched his career high with three runs scored.
• The Knights are 5-1 in extra-inning contests.
• With the one-run win on Wednesday, 17 of the last 21 games have been decided by three runs or less.
UCF will have Thursday off. The Knights will return to action on Friday night for another elimination game against the loser of the No. 2 Cincinnati and No. 3 Tulane matchup.
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