ORLANDO – The Knights walked it off on 2023's first Citronaut Saturday, as Brady Shannon put a two-out offering into orbit in the bottom of the ninth, giving the squad a 2-1 win against Siena Saturday evening at John Euliano Park. Triumphant in the polar opposite of last night's game, UCF's staff shined en route to winning its first series of the season.
"This is what's amazing about baseball, you can go one night from the next and sometimes you have to win games scoring 20 and others you have to win 2-1," said UCF head coach Greg Lovelady. "We kept pitching well throughout, played great defense, and early in the season it seems these uniforms cause something crazy."
On the bump making his first collegiate start, Cameron Leiter promptly introduced himself to the fans, fanning three early on. The freshman would end his debut outing with an impressive seven strikeouts. It would take until the top half of the fourth for either team to get on the scoreboard, as the Saints yet again grabbed the game's first run on an RBI single from Vincenzo Castronovo. Leiter responded by striking out two Siena batters looking to get out of the inning. After retiring Siena's Bryce Mordecki to start the fifth, the freshman exited to a standing ovation from the Knights faithful.
Chase Centala exited the bullpen for his first appearance of 2023. After working himself into a jam following a single and walk, the junior persevered, stranding two runners on base and sending the Knights to the bottom half.
The momentum shifted after Cole Russo ripped a double into the right-center gap, Shannon drove a pitch in front of the right fielder with Russo touching home and leveling the game at one apiece going into the sixth. The pitching staff was clinical from there on out, giving the Knights offense plenty of opportunities to take the lead late. Cantela continued dealing, striking out three more batters before Kyle Kramer took over entering the eighth.
Though the bats exploded for 22 runs last night, Sienna's Ryan Bates and Billy Rozakis held the top six Knights batters hitless throughout the game. The aforementioned Russo and Shannon, along with Drew Faurot held it down at the bottom of the order, combining for all seven of UCF's hits. In the top of the ninth, Kramer stranded two Saints runners on base and got Randall Hien to whiff, the 15th strikeout of the game for the Knights.
Heading into the final half-inning of the night, Shannon entered the batter's box with two outs and the fans potentially gearing up for extras. The freshman, down to two strikes, smashed the pitch into orbit, sending the Knights faithful home with his second home run in as many days. It was a walk-off moonshot to give UCF the win on the first Citronaut Saturday of the year. Shannon was living on the bases, going 4-for-4 and plating both Knights runs.
The Black and Gold will look to stay perfect and complete their first sweep of the season tomorrow at 1 p.m., as UCF sophomore Dom Stagliano takes the mound against Siena's Sebastian Bentz in the Sunday matinee.