Game 2 of the series was an absolute pitchers’ duel. Neither the Rebels nor the Knights could get anything going offensively. Side note: I shouldn’t call them the Knights because the game was played on a Saturday and they prefer to be called the Citronauts on Saturdays. After a full regulation game concluded without any runs scored, somebody had to make magic in extras.
John Gaddis was tapped for the start. He lasted 7.0 innings and allowed just 4 Hits before being relieved by freshman sensation Mason Nichols. Nichols had a perfect 8th inning, but gave up a base hit on the first pitch of the 9th. Hayden Dunhurst then quickly erased the runner when he foolishly tried to steal 2nd base. The next pitch was a strike out of the ever so dangerous Nick Romano and the Rebs were well on their way to send this one into extras.
Ole Miss did not record a hit until the 5th inning. The UCF starter went 7.0 innings and allowed just 2 Hits in a scoreless performance. His relief was just as impressive; mowing down all six of the batters you face against one of the most potent offenses in the nation is no small feat, but that is what he did to keep it scoreless through the 9th.
The Rebels finally had a real chance in the 10th inning. Time Elko flew out and Kevin Graham grounded out, but Justin Bench managed to smack a base hit past the 3rd Baseman. After stealing 2nd Base, the Citronauts elected to intentionally walk the red hot TJ McCants in order to face Hayden Leatherwood. The move worked and Nichols trotted back out to the mound for the Rebs.
Nichols gave way to another freshman sensation Hunter Elliott with 1 out in the 10th. Clearly Bianco was pulling out all the stops and trying his best to start a season 10-0 for only the second time in school history.
Elliott worked his way through the rest of the inning with a loud fly out to center and a strike out. Off to the 11th inning they went. The Rebels threatened a little bit in the 11th, but were ultimately turned away without any runs to show for it. In the bottom half of the inning, the Citronauts created some drama, but Hayden Leatherwood robbed a base hit with a sliding catch and threw to 2nd base for the double play.
After Tim Elko drew a one out walk in the top of the 12th innings, Banks Tolley was called on to pinch run. Tolley managed to steal a base on strike three to Kevin Graham and Justin Bench dug in with the task of finally breaking the deadlock.
He could not get it done. UCF reliever Centala shattered his career long outing record with 5.0 innings of high leverage shutout relief pitching. He did everything possible to keep giving the Citronauts a chance and his efforts were rewarded in the bottom of the 12th.
After not allowing a single walk for 11 innings, a Rebel finally issued a free pass. Immediately following, Elliott issued another. Mitch Murrell was called on to maybe extend the battle for another frame, but with two runners on and nobody out, the task was just too much.
The Rebels had been struggling defensively as of late, but this game was different. They understood that the offense was struggling to push runs across and stepped it up by turning multiple double plays and snagging a few web gems. It is unfortunate that the game ended the way it did, but the game had to end eventually.
After having the program record win streak broken up by UCF last season, the Rebels wanted to win this series badly. After being handed their first loss of 2022 today, they want to win it even more. This budding rivalry will have a winner-take-all rubber match tomorrow at 11 AM Central. Drew McDaniel and the powder blue uniforms will be determined to avenge this loss.