CLEARWATER, Fla. – The No. 4 UCF baseball team took Clearwater by storm as Andrew Brait hammered a monster home run for the walk off and Cameron Leiter threw seven shutout innings to start the first game of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship, presented by Visit St. Pete Clearwater, Tuesday at BayCare Ballpark. The Knights took the contest over No. 5 Cincinnati with a final score of 4-3.
"We kept showing up and kept putting pressure on them. We're really good at bouncing back," Head coach Greg Lovelady said. "We're prepared – we've seen it all. We have prepared to get out and play games like this keep showing up."
In a spectacular game from Leiter, his seven shutout innings marked a career long. He followed his last outing against Cincinnati, an 11-strikeout game in which he allowed only two hits in 5.1 innings, earlier this month with another shut-down performance. Leiter notched nine strikeouts in the win and allowed only four hits and one walk.
"Going into a tournament structured like this, it's huge to win the first one," Leiter said on his focus going into game one. "I knew that was the plan – this was the season to me."
The Knights scored the first run of the AAC Tournament as Ben McCabe and Andrew Sundean were hit by pitches back-to-back. McCabe, who was hit for the 41st time in the Black and Gold, broke the AAC record for career hit by pitch to load the bases. Sundean followed in the next at bat and was hit by his 15th pitch of the season, notching an RBI and plating one of the Knights. UCF added one more on a Nick Romano sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Brait who was on base from a single.
Cincinnati got their first run across in the top of the eighth inning and added two more in the ninth to even the score.
Down one run heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, Brait arrived at the plate with one away and on the 2-1 count, belted a towering home run to the back wall of the Knights' bullpen to walk it off for the Black and Gold. With the third home run of his career, Brait solidified the Knights' AAC game one win since 2021, also against Cincinnati.
"I think the biggest thing that makes us dangerous is our camaraderie as a team. We vibe together very well and everyone wants to see each other succeed," Leiter commented. "There's not one guy on the bench complaining, we're just focused on winning."
The Knights secure a spot in the winners' bracket and are set to face No. 8 South Florida 1 p.m. Thursday after their upset victory in 11 innings over No. 1 East Carolina.