Down to the last out in the bottom of the ninth trailing by a run, UCF shortstop Darnell Sweeney (Miramar, Fla.) delivered a first-pitch two-run walk-off single to shallow left with the bases loaded to give the No. 19 Knights (5-2) a 5-4 victory, and 2-1 series win over Boston College Sunday afternoon from the UCF baseball complex.
It is the first series victory over an ACC opponent for the Knights since they took two of three at Clemson in 2004.
UCF head coach Terry Rooney applauded both teams for playing a compelling series that featured three one-run games.
“What a series of college baseball for everyone who was out here and saw that,” Rooney said. “That’s college baseball at its best. Three one-run games with all three coming down to the last three innings. A lot of credit goes to Boston College who has a great club.
“We talk about it all the time, everyone picking each other up and Darnell with the confidence to get that big hit after we lost the lead right there,” Rooney added. “I hope that can be a catalyst for us moving forward. At the end of the day, the guys battled. It was an awesome win and the guys did a great job.”
In the third back-and-forth contest between the two teams, the Knights and Eagles (4-2) combined for 19 hits and an error-free ballgame Sunday.
Facing an early 2-0 deficit, UCF evened up the score with two outs in the bottom of the third. Junior Ronnie Richardson (Eagle Lake, Fla.) was hit by his third pitch of the season to take first and improve his on-base percentage to .441. Fellow junior D.J. Hicks (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) took a walk to bring up Chris Taladay with two men on. The junior from Windermere, Fla., delivered with a shot up the middle to plate Richardson for his second RBI of the series.
Junior catcher Ryan Breen (Palm City, Fla.) followed by taking a 1-1 pitch into left field just out of the reach of third basemen John Hennessy’s glove to bring home Hicks and tie the game at 2-2.
Left-handed starter Chris Matulis (Boynton Beach, Fla.) did an excellent job of pitching out of trouble in the top of the fourth after giving up back-to-back singles. He popped up BC’s Blake Butera, induced a foul fly ball that Sweeney tracked down and stuck out Tom Bourdon looking to end the frame.
Just like in the fourth, BC stranded two runners on first and second with Matulis getting a flyout to Richardson in center field. RHP Roman Madrid (Victoria, Texas) relieved the 6-foot-6 Matulis by inducing a flyout to fellow junior Nick Carrillo (Glendale, Fla.) in left and a swinging strikeout to end the frame.
Madrid returned to the mound with a 1-2-3 sixth as second basemen Travis Shreve (Auburn, Wash.) slid to his right to glove the ball and fire it to first for the final out of the frame. He returned in the seventh featuring more of his nasty repertoire by striking out the side swinging.
UCF came through with excellent fundamental baseball in the seventh as Sweeney started the inning with a leadoff walk. After a John Gorman wild pitch to take second base, Sweeney advanced to third on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Richardson to the third basemen Hennessy. Hicks took advantage with a go-ahead single up the middle for his eighth RBI of the year.
Facing a tough task late in the game, junior closer Joe Rogers (Winter Haven, Fla.) took over in the eighth with no outs and men on first and second. He set down Hennessy with a called third strike on an inside fastball. He then struck out Butera swinging on a 1-2 fastball. Rogers, on his 12th pitch of the inning, induced a ball to short which Sweeney flipped to Shreve to get the Knights out of the jam.
The top of the ninth wouldn’t be as easy for Rogers. After giving up a leadoff single down the left-field line, he struck out Anthony Melchionda swinging and popped up Andrew Lawrence, but BC would load the bases on a Marc Perdios single to right followed by a hit batsmen. BC’s Tyler Hinchliffe delivered a shot by Rogers that went into center field, bringing in two runs for the 4-3 lead.
The exciting bottom-half of the ninth started with a pair of singles by Breen and senior Alex Friedrich (Orlando, Fla). Freshman JoMarcos Woods (Orlando, Fla.) stepped into the batter’s box and saw Lawrence throw one in the dirt to allow Breen and Friedrich to advance to second and third. An intentional walk of Woods followed by two UCF popups gave Sweeney a chance to deliver in the clutch with his rope to left field to plate Breen and Friedrich for the two-run walk-off single.
The Knights will have a short turnaround as they host in-state rival USF on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. Action from the UCF baseball complex can be seen live on All-Access via UCFAthletics.com.