Through all three games, 8,285 fans packed into John Euliano Park. This beats out the 2012 weekend series against Rice (6,601) for the highest-attended weekend series of all time and a 2014 two-game midweek series against Florida State (7,058) for the highest-attended series of all time.
“Part of us winning [Saturday] night was the crowd,” Lovelady said after Sunday’s game. “So, I believe that they can play a huge part in us, and so it was awesome to see. I’m really grateful for everybody that came out and I hope they all had a good time.”
Friday: Trading Runs
The Knights had gotten out ahead of Ole Miss early on Friday.
Going into the 5th inning, two RBI doubles had UCF up 2-0 and starter David Litchfield and the UCF defense had the Rebel batters going three up and three down.
Then, for the next two innings, the homers began to fly.
While both teams traded three-run home runs in the 5th inning, Ole Miss tied the game back up in the 6th inning with three-straight solo home runs. Those were the final three batters Litchfield faced before he was pulled from the mound.
“You felt like it was just the game of baseball,” Lovelady said. “It wasn’t that [Litchfield] was out of gas or that he was struggling, it just was [Ole Miss] did a really good job.”
That tie was broken when the Rebels got their 4th and final home run of the game, a 2-run shot in the 7th inning to go up 8-6.
The Knights did one back thanks to a bases-loaded walk to make the score 8-7, but they were unable to tie the game up. So, that 8-7 score ended up being the final one.
“You got to tip your that to them, but I’m proud of the kids,” Lovelady said, “We competed like crazy, we were in it to the end, we had chances.”
“They got one more big hit than we did.”
Saturday: Pitcher’s Duel
Of the record-setting 8,285 fans in attendance over the weekend, the 2,921 that were in John Euliano Park on Saturday were treated to some free baseball as the Knights handed the Rebels their first loss of the season, 1-0, in extra innings.
Thanks to the work of both teams’ pitching staffs, the game went scoreless for 11.5 innings. However, Knights were able to take the victory with a walk-off RBI single by catcher Riley Wash, bringing home center fielder Gephry Pena from third.
“I think we just wanted it more,” Pena said. “It was just a game about who wanted it more and at the last moment, we felt we had the energy and that’s what pushes me.”
Pena was the only UCF batter that game to get multiple hits on the Ole Miss pitching staff, with three. However, he would get on base for the game-winning run thanks to a walk, meaning he reached base in four of his five plate appearances.
“It’s a heavyweight fight,” Pena said. “So, it’s whoever keeps throwing punches, that’s the one that wins.”
On the defensive side, starting pitcher Connor Staine kept the Rebel batters at bay for the first 7.0 innings, allowing only 2 hits and 1 walk. He also set a new career high with 10 strikeouts.
Staine said that his start on Saturday was number one for his collegiate career, citing that he has not played a team of Ole Miss’ caliber before.
“Getting a chance to pitch against them and showing myself, not only to everyone else, that I’m here to play and I’m here to do what I came to do,” Staine said.
However, relief pitcher Chase Centala ended up credited with the win after pitching 5.0 innings in relief, the longest appearance of his collegiate career. He allowed just one hit, three walks, and striking out six batters.
Centala said that while he was in the bullpen, he was watching Staine pitch to see “what was working for him and where he was locating.”
“I tried to mimic that, and it worked out for me,” Centala said. “I had a feel for all my pitches, and I can throw them at any count, so that was huge.”
In a game that came down to which offense would breakthrough or which defense would blink first, Lovelady summarized it very succinctly.
“It’s just two great teams going at it, making plays when they needed to,” Lovelady said.
Sunday: At least the series attendance record was broken
The first two games of the series never had more than a three-run lead at any point in the game. However, on Sunday, Ole Miss got out to a five-run lead after five innings and never looked back, beating the Knights, 9-1.
UCF went through six pitchers in this game, but it all started with Hunter Patteson, who Lovelady said was not as “crisp” as last week.
Patteson was credited with the loss after pitching 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits, four runs, and striking out four batters.
“We just didn’t play very well today,” Lovelady said after the game. “We just didn’t do the things we’ve been doing.”
The team has a busy spring break week as it faces off against three different mid-major Florida teams.
First, the team travels to Daytona Beach on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for a matchup with Bethune-Cookman.
The next day, the team returns home on Wednesday at 6 p.m. to host Florida A&M.
Finally, the team faces off against North Florida once again, this time in a weekend series. The first two games will be played in John Euliano Park on Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. Then, both teams will travel to Jacksonville on Sunday for the final game at 1 p.m.
Play of the Series
An attempted SAC bunt in the 11th inning is turned into a double play: