Clutch Hitting Clinches Series as Baseball Tops Samford 9-6

by James Warnick

ORLANDO – UCF baseball managed to piece together a pair of late two-out rallies on its way to clinching the series over Samford with a 9-6 victory on Saturday night at John Euliano Park. The Black and Gold will go for the series sweep in the weekend finale on Sunday afternoon.

Trailing 6-5 in the seventh, the Knights (4-0) got a walk from Jack Zyska followed by a big two-out RBI double from freshman Andrew Williamson in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at 6-6.

After senior reliever Alex Galvan retired the Bulldogs (4-2) in order in the eighth, UCF again put together another two-out rally to take the lead for good in the last half of the eighth. Matt Prevesk started the pivotal stretch with a single and Andrew Brait followed with a walk. Lex Boedicker then ripped a 1-0 pitch down the rightfield line to score Prevesk to give the Knights the lead. After intentionally walking Andrew Sundean, Zyska then made the Bulldogs pay with a two-run single to right to put UCF up for good at 9-6.

For the third time on the young season, senior right-hander Chase Centala then entered in the ninth and took care of business to record his third save. Centala mowed down the Bulldogs in order on his way to helping seal the victory for the Knights.

“That’s a very talented, well-coached team, and I’m proud of the guys for showing toughness and grit there towards the end to get the job done,” head UCF coach Rich Wallace said. “The guys really hunkered down and had great at-bats, especially with two strikes. There was a lot of tenacity shown and I was pleased with the way that our guys were able to stick with it at the plate tonight.”

With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, Andrew Estrella smoked a ball to deep left center for the team’s first grand slam of the season to give the Knights an early 4-0 lead.

Sundean started off the third with a single to right and Mikey Kluska drove him home with a two-out triple off the wall in right to make it 5-0. The RBI triple marked Kluska’s second run-producing triple of the series.

With right-hander Tyler Nesbitt looking strong in his first official start in a UCF uniform, the Bulldogs managed to piece together a four-run rally in the fifth to make it 5-4. Samford’s Garrett Staton had the big hit of the frame with a three-run homer.

With the Black and Gold still holding to the 5-4 advantage in the seventh, Staton had another big knock for the Bulldogs with a two-run home run to left center to give Samford a 6-5 lead. UCF then responded, however, with the big two-out offensive rallies in the seventh and eighth to pull out the content.

After surrendering just one run on one hit while striking out three over an inning and two thirds, Galvan earned his second win of the young season to improve to 2-0. Centala then followed with a perfect ninth to record his third save. Both the starter Nesbitt and senior Kyle Kramer also pitched well on the evening for the Knights. Reliever Jake Holifield was tagged with the loss for Samford to drop to 1-1 on the year.

With the second-inning grand slam, Estrella paced the Knights with four RBIs, while Prevesk and Sundean each collected three hits. Boedicker, Zyska, Mikey Kluska and Williamson all also drove in runs in the contest for the Black and Gold. Staton paced Samford on the night by going 2-for-4 with two homers and five RBIs.

Sunday’s series finale is set for 1 p.m. at John Euliano Park. Southpaw Dominic Castellano will get the start on the mound for the Knights. Live stats will be available by visiting ucf.statbroadcast.com. Next week, UCF will head to Boca Raton for a Tuesday midweek at Florida Atlantic before returning home to host South Florida for a three-game non-conference series next weekend.