Grant Schuermann

UCF redshirt senior left-handed pitcher Grant Schuermann (37) strikes a batter out as the Knights take on the Siena Saints at John Euliano Park on Feb. 15. The Knights defeated the Saints 3-2.

The UCF baseball team defeated the Siena Saints 3-2 in walk-off fashion in the team's season opener on Friday night.

The winning run came in the bottom of the ninth inning when junior outfielder Ray Alejo hit a high chopper to third base, which was scooped up and thrown away into the outfield. The error allowed sophomore infielder Griffin Bernardo to score the game-winning run.

UCF held a 2-1 lead heading into the top of the ninth, but sophomore right-hander Jeffrey Hakanson allowed a game-tying home run with one out.

He escaped the inning with no further damage, giving the Knights a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.

Before the ninth-inning drama, both offenses struggled to get much going. The first run of the game for UCF came on a solo home run by Bernardo in the bottom of the fifth, which tied the game at 1-1. 

In the bottom of the sixth, senior infielder Matthew Mika started a rally with a single.

While junior Pedro Castellano was at bat, Mika stole second base, then proceeded to steal third. Castellano then hit a short ground ball that fell between the pitcher and catcher. The miscommunication allowed Mika to score the go-ahead run.

The Knights totaled seven stolen bases.

"We expect to be a top 10 team at stealing bases, especially with the guys that we have," UCF head coach Greg Lovelady said.

Pitching was the key for both sides early on. For UCF, it was redshirt senior left-hander Grant Schuermann working his way through the Saints lineup in his first start with the Knights.

He allowed his only run in the top of the third before finishing the night with seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed in six innings pitched. 

“I felt like I had pretty good stuff tonight," Schuermann said. "[I] just let a couple batters get away from me. You know [the] defense played well behind me.” 

The Knights will look to earn the series win over the Saints in game two on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at John Euliano Park.

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