ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) – The UCF baseball team overcame a six-run first-inning deficit to complete the sweep of Winthrop Sunday afternoon as RS senior Erik Hempe hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth for the 7-6 win.
The Knights’ (7-4) triumphant comeback was team’s first walk-off victory since April 7, 2012. Four players concluded the blustery day with multiple-hit games, including senior 3B Chris Taladay who went 4-for-5 with three RBI to finish the weekend batting .583.
“What a team win,” head coach Terry Rooney said after the game. “That was a team win in every aspect possible. We had momentum the whole game and were finally able to capitalize. From a team standpoint, it says quite a bit that we were able to rally from six down and get the win.”
UCF will once again have a five-game week ahead with North Florida paying its first visit to Orlando since 2010, followed by a trip to Coral Gables to face Miami on Wednesday and a weekend series with Jacksonville.
Making his first collegiate start, RHP Tyler Martin didn’t get the results he was looking for as Winthrop tallied six runs on four hits in just 2/3 of an inning on the rookie. High school teammate Zac Favre would relieve him, and kept the Knights in the game with five sensational innings of work with just one hit allowed and seven strikeouts. Lefty Jimmy Reed and RHP Spencer Davis also completed the stellar effort out of the pen by tossing a combined three perfect innings with Davis notching his first win as a Knight.
“There are lots of stories (regarding the game), but for me it starts with Zac Favre,” Rooney added. “We gave up six runs in the first and then put up eight zeros the rest of the way. He did a tremendous job picking up his teammates all the way through as did the rest of the relievers.”
UCF would break into the scoring column in the third after JoMarcos Woods (2-for-3, 2 BB) took a two-out walk, stole his fourth base of the season and later scored on a Taladay single up the middle.
A fifth-inning rally would also be in store for the Knights still facing a 6-1 deficit. After Woods took a lead-off walk and advanced to second on a throwing error by the pitcher, Taladay executed perfectly on a 3-1 pitch, sending it down the left-field line for an RBI double.
Taladay would come around to score his ninth run of the year when LF Jeramy Matos (2-for-4, 2 RBI) got a hold of a 1-1 pitch and sent it sky-high over the left field fence for his fifth home run in just 36 at-bats this year. The senior, who started 30 games as a junior, has now matched his dinger total from 2012 in only 11 games.
In the eighth, UCF was finally able to climb back from the 6-0 deficit by tying the game on a Taladay bloop single to right-center followed by an Austin Johnston (1-for-5) RBI-groundout to shortstop.
The Knights would complete the hard-fought comeback in the ninth after Nick Carrillo got things started with a pinch-hit single. Rookie Ryan Reilly pinch-ran for the senior and promptly stole second base on the first pitch of the following at-bat. Winthrop would intentionally walk Ryan Breen to setup the double-play.
With two-outs and a 1-1 count, Hempe, who already had a game-winning RBI on Friday, would come through in the clutch again by sending a hot-shot off the shortstop’s glove to send Reilly home to a rowdy greeting by his teammates.
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