Wallace Notches Win No. 1 as UCF Pulls Out Opening Knight Battle, 12-11

by James Warnick

ORLANDO – Head coach Rich Wallace picked up his first career win Friday evening, as UCF pulled out a 12-11 back-and-forth battle over Bryant on Opening Knight in front of 2,602 fans at John Euliano Park.

Senior transfer Jack Zyska went 3-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs while Andrew Sundean added a 2-for-5 performance with three runs batted in. Andrew Brait, Danny Neri, and Mikey Kluska also recorded multiple hits on the evening for the Knights (1-0), as the team tallied 15 hits.

“The crowd was electric; I can’t say enough about it tonight. A ton of fans came in and it was really exciting,” said the senior outfielder Zyska. “I loved the atmosphere and the energy, and hopefully we can get as many fans out as we can, so we can get rowdy.”

Trailing 6-3 in the sixth, the Knights were able to hang a crooked number with eight runs in the last of the sixth to take an 11-6 lead. Neri, Kluska and Lex Boedicker all delivered RBI singles to tie the game. The two-time all-conference performer Sundean then cleared the bases with a double to left center to give UCF a 9-6 advantage and Zyska immediately followed by belting a two-run homer to center to put the Black and Gold up by five.

The Bulldogs (0-1) wouldn’t go away, however, as they countered with four in the seventh and another in the eighth—thanks to a solo homer from Gavin Noriega to deadlock the game at 11.

In the bottom of the eighth, Zyska started things off with a double to left and Matt Cedarburg delivered a picture-perfect sac bunt off the bench to advance Zyska to third. With one away, Braden Calise then stepped up and drove in what proved to be the winning run with a sacrifice fly to center in his first official collegiate plate appearance.

Leading 12-11 in the ninth, senior Chase Centala then entered on the mound for the Knights and mowed down Bryant in order to record the save.

“Obviously it wasn’t pretty but there was some real toughness shown by our guys tonight,” Wallace said. “I was proud of the guys for bouncing back every time we fell behind and for being gritty. We could’ve rolled over one of those times we fell behind, but the guys just kept battling and showed a lot of mental fortitude and that was nice to see.”

The Knights got off to an early 1-0 advantage by manufacturing a run in the last of the first. In his first at-bat in a UCF uniform, Matt Prevesk singled to left on the first pitch of the frame. He then advanced to second on a groundout and reached third on a passed ball. Boedicker then drove him in with a hard-hit ground ball to put the Black and Gold on the board.

The Bulldogs then responded with a trio of runs in the third to take a 3-1 lead. UCF quickly countered, however, with a run in the bottom of the inning to make it 3-2, Brait singled to right and later scored on a wild pitch to pull the Knights within a run. The Black and Gold then knotted things up at 3-3 in the fourth, as Andrew Estrella walked and later scored from second on an RBI single to left off the bat of Kluska.

After a scoreless fifth, Bryant then managed to piece together a sixth-inning rally to score three runs and take a 6-3 lead, but UCF would go on to counter with the eight-run frame in the bottom of that inning.

Senior reliever Alex Galvan picked up the win in relief for the Knights to move to 1-0 on the year after allowing just two runs in 2.0 innings of work. Senior Ben Vespi recorded the opening day start for UCF and struck out a game-high six batters over 4.0 innings. Bryant reliever Jared Burrows was tagged with the loss after giving up the go-ahead run in the eighth to fall to 0-1.

With rain expected later in the weekend, games two and three of the series have been moved up to a Saturday doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m. The nightcap of the twin bill will begin 45 minutes following the conclusion of Saturday's first game. Live stats will be available by visiting