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UCF Baseball 1st Round of Big 12 Tournament vs Cinci

photo by @deximaging

Article by Don Strouble (@DonDocuments407)

UCF Survives Late Collapse, Beats Cincinnati in Extra Inning Thriller as Neri Homers Three Times- Don Strouble

Rich Wallace and his team have called The Lone Star State home for several days now. 

The Texas trip for the Knights began in Waco last weekend. It was there that UCF would win two of three against Baylor and lock up a much needed Big 12 series victory to end the regular season.

The Knights finished eighth in the Big 12 with a 14-15 record in conference play as they made their way to Arlington, where they prepared for a matchup against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the third game of Tuesday’s Big 12 Championship showcase. A late April meeting between the Bearcats and the Knights led to a 2-1 series victory for Cincinnati. UCF looked as if they were playing with a vengeance against the Bearcats, as the offense started producing immediately in the home of the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers. Through the first three innings the Knights were able to score three runs, which included a sacrifice fly RBI by first baseman Lex Boedicker and a first pitch home run by catcher Danny Neri off of Cincinnati starting pitcher Nathan Taylor. UCF’s production at the plate forced Cincinnati Head Coach Jordan Bischel to go to his bullpen early, while UCF starting right hander Dom Stagliano was able to work with an added level of comfort, courtesy of his offense.

Stagliano had a nice start to the week leading up to the game, as he earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors for his efforts on the mound this season. Stagliano showed early in the game why he received these honors, as he showcased good efficiency by allowing just one walk and no hits through the first three innings. Just when it looked like Stagliano was going to retire the Cincinnati side for the third time in the game, the Bearcats were able to get going offensively, as left fielder Hunter Jessee was able to record Cincinnati’s first hit of the game. Designated Hitter Christian Mitchell followed up by sending an RBI triple to left to make it a 3-1 game heading into the top of the fifth.

Things didn’t get much better for Stagliano, as his next trip to the mound started by giving up a leadoff double and a walk. The rocky start for the right hander in the bottom of the 5th compelled Wallace to go to Dominic Castellano in relief. This move to the bullpen paid off, as Castellano showed up with ice in his veins as he struck out the first three batters he faced to keep the threatening Bearcats off the board.

Though the offense for the Knights had begun to slow down, UCF returned to strong form as a two out Jack Zyska triple set up Danny Neri to go yard once again, which extended the lead to 5-1 going into the bottom of the seventh. It seemed that UCF was in the driver’s seat heading into the final two innings of the game, but Cincinnati began to seize opportunities to start chipping away at their four-run deficit. The Bearcats kicked off their comeback in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI double from second baseman Max Palmieri to make it a 5-2 game. Disaster hit for UCF in the bottom of the ninth as reliever Kris Sosnowski loaded the bases with two outs. After Rich Wallace called on Spencer Bauer to get the final out, Christian Mitchelle drove in his second run of the night on a single to left to trim UCF’s lead to just two.

Cincinnati Center fielder Josh Hegemann followed up with an infield single that scored two more and tied the game at 5-5 after UCF shortstop Mikey Kluska overthought a routine play and failed to record the final out when he had opportunities at first and second. After a failed 10th inning in which UCF could not score with bases loaded, Danny Neri continued his incredible day at the plate, as he drove a clutch two out solo shot to right field to give his team a 6-5 lead in the top of the 11th. It was Neri’s third home run of the day. 

Rich Wallace went to his bullpen one more time, as he called on Kyle Kramer to close the game for the Knights. Kramer and the defense finished the job, as UCF held on for a 6-5 victory. 

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