ORLANDO, Fla. -- In the first road trip game of the 2015 season, the No. 18 Ole Miss baseball team saw No. 15 UCF rally to claim the series opener, 5-4, Friday night at Jay Bergman Field. In last year's series between these two teams, the Rebels (4-3) had two walk-off victories, but it was the Knights (9-0) who scored two runs in the eighth before walking off with the win in the bottom of the ninth on a base hit to left field.
Against one of the top offensive teams in the nation, Ole Miss starter Christian Trent went a season-high seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits. Freshman Will Stokes relieved Trent in the eighth, and Wyatt Short (1-1) finished the inning and pitched into the ninth.
Returning to his hometown, sophomore center fielder J.B. Woodman led the Rebels at the plate in a 2-for-3 performance that included a double and a triple. Freshman Tate Blackman added a double, while also scoring two of the Rebels' four runs. Ole Miss totaled five hits and walked seven times as well, but the Rebels stranded 11 runners throughout the night.
UCF recorded nine hits as three Knights recorded two hits apiece. Harrison Hukari (2-0) pitched the ninth and earned the win in relief.
Being the road team, Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco emphasized the importance of striking first, and the Rebels did just that in the top of the first. On the game's first pitch, Woodman lined a double down to the left field corner. Errol Robinson advanced his teammate 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt. Following a strikeout and a walk, Henri Lartigue smacked a two-out base hit up the middle to score Woodman and give Ole Miss the early 1-0 advantage.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Knights threatened to tie the contest quickly putting two runners on base with one out. A double followed by a walk set the scene for Robinson to end the inning with an incredible diving catch. The Ole Miss shortstop made a full extension to haul in the catch before flipping to second to nail the runner off base and end the inning without the Knights striking on the scoreboard.
After the first, the game became a battle on the mound as both pitchers did not allow a hit for three consecutive innings. Blackman ended the hitless streak for the two teams in the top of the fifth with a leadoff double. After a Woodman walk, Robinson drilled a shot right at the first baseman that went through his legs, allowing Blackman to score from second. A Sikes Orvis walk loaded the bases with one out, but the Knights were able to escape the jam; nonetheless, the Rebels added a run to double their lead through the halfway point of the contest.
Robinson's fantastic defense on the double play proved to help Trent shake off the first inning threat. The southpaw retired 11 straight hitters until a UCF single in the bottom of the fifth. After a walk that advanced the lead runner to second, the Knights got a base hit through the left side. As UCF tried to bring around its first run of the game, defensive replacement Kyle Watson made a perfect throw to catcher Austin Knight, nailing the runner at the plate and keeping the home team off the board.
The Rebels continued to add to their lead with another run in the top of the sixth. For the third time, the leadoff hitter reached base as Watson started the inning with a walk. A wild pitch allowed Blackman to reach first on a strikeout, and Watson advanced to third. Cameron Dishon executed his job to perfection with a bunt that brought in Watson, and Blackman came around to score on a two-out triple by Woodman. For the second straight inning, Ole Miss doubled its cushion, scoring two to lead 4-0.
After Ole Miss added two runs in the top of the sixth, UCF countered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. The Knights got the leadoff hitter on base for the first time in the contest as a pair of singles and sacrifices led to the runs. The scoring inning brought the Rebels' cushion back to two runs, 4-2, after the sixth.
UCF came back to tie the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth. Trent came out to start the inning and gave up a leadoff double before exiting the contest. A double off of freshman Will Stokes cut the lead to one, before a pair of outs brought the tying run around to score and knot the contest at four runs apiece.
In the ninth, a double put the winning run on second base before JoMarcos Woods delivered a two-out single to left field that resulted in the victory for the Knights.
The Rebels will look to avenge the setback with a victory in game two of the series, set for 3:00 p.m. CT on Saturday. The game can be heard on the airwaves of the Ole Miss Radio Network with Richard Cross and Keith Kessinger on the call.