Maglich's late-inning drama lifts Bulls past UCF
On one of the season's most raucous nights at USF Baseball Stadium, Bulls senior RF Luke Maglich didn't merely create the drama, he provided the prelude as well.
An inning after potentially saving three UCF runs with arguably the defensive play of the season, Maglich hit a walk-off double to left field, clinching a 5-4 victory before the third-largest crowd (2,794) in the stadium's six-year history.
"I thought it was a huge win for us," said Maglich, whose club (21-22, 6-8) clinched its first American Athletic Conference series of the season.
"We got off to a big lead right away, but we faced a lot of adversity. We were able to hang in there and make sure that we made the plays when we needed to, and then we found a way to get on in the ninth, and from there it was kind of history."
In a sense, Maglich -- 5-for-8 with four RBIs in this series -- began the game the way he ended it. Two batters after Kevin Merrell's leadoff single in the top of the first, Maglich hit a two-run home run to right, giving the Bulls a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, after Merrell hit a one-out single and Duke Stunkel was intentionally walked, Maglich sent Trent Thompson's 3-2 pitch to the left field warning track. Game over.
"Obviously (Merrell and Maglich) are talented players and they have experience," Bulls coach Mark Kingston said. "So when they get in those big situations they know how to handle 'em."
The biggest situation of the night might have occurred in the top of the eighth.
With one out and the bases loaded, Maglich made a diving snag of a Matthew Mika liner, then caught Matt Diorio off the first-base bag with a heady throw for a double play, keeping the score tied at 4-all.
"I think the best play of the year, and maybe the best play I've seen in the last five years," Kingston said.
"When he made that catch I looked up and I saw that the guy was tagging and going home; I thought that's where the throw was gonna go. For him to have the presence of mind to throw that ball to first, and for Duke Stunkel to be there covering the bag, just tremendous."
Merrell finished with three more hits Saturday, and is 5-for-7 with two RBIs in this series, which ends with Game Three on Sunday at noon. C Joe Genord finished 3-for-4.
Hernando High alumnus Brandon Lawson worked the first seven innings for USF, allowing three earned runs on five hits, striking out eight and walking one. Andrew Perez held UCF hitless in the final 1.2 innings to pick up the win.