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Big 12 Tournament: UCF Tops Oklahoma State 7-6 In 10 Innings

 Matt Tallarini  |    May 24th, 2024 11:46am EDT

Oklahoma State’s Carson Benge comes into score against Central Florida in Thursday’s nightcap at the Big 12 Tournament in Arlington, Texas. (Photo Courtesy of the Big 12 Conference)

Arlington, Texas – Central Florida beat the No. 2 seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys 7-6 in 10 innings to cap off Thursday’s games at the Big 12 Tournament at Globe Life Field. 

Central Florida sophomore Andrew Nessler was the hero on Thursday night, pinch hitting for Anthony Calabro in the 10th and driving in the go-ahead run with a single to left center field. 

“Obviously it’s not a role that I am unfamiliar with, but at the same time I didn’t have much time to get ready. This is a guy that I faced earlier in the year, so I kind of knew what he was going to attack me with. Especially coming off the bench, it is critical that you get your pitch to hit and see a couple of pitches before and he gave me one to handle,” Nessler said. 

Central Florida is one win away from appearing in their first Big 12 Conference championship game. It’s the school’s first year in the conference. 

It was “such a well played college baseball game on a big stage. It was electric the whole time. It was  basically a one-run ball game until the very end, and we just hung in there and found a way to win a tough game against a really quality opponent,” UCF head coach Rich Wallace said. 

UCF was in the American Athletic Conference prior to joining the Big 12. They won the first two games at home in Orlando against Oklahoma State in their three-game series from Mar. 15-17. 

Oklahoma State was ranked No. 19 in the country in the D1Baseball.com’s Top 25 during the final week of the regular season. 

The Cowboys got on the board early when Carson Benge ripped an RBI single into center field that sent Zach Ehrhard in to score the first run of the game. Benge played right field Thursday after starting on the mound Wednesday night against Texas Tech.

“It’s well documented, we speak about Benge often. He’s a very talented player. He does a lot of things on the field, he’s a great outfielder. He hits the bases well, he’s a fine hitter. He is just an excellent all-around good player. That was on display again today with a couple of big swings and RBI’s. He’s a remarkably talented player, there’s no doubt about it,” Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday said. 

A few batters later, junior designated hitter Aidan Meola rocked a double into the right-center field gap, scoring Benge. Then Colin Brueggemann lifted a sacrifice fly to right field and Nolan Schubart came in to score to make it 3-0. 

Showing some panache, Lane Forsythe laid down a safety squeeze bunt on the left side, allowing Meola to score to make it 4-0. 

Oklahoma State starting pitcher Brennan Phillips threw one inning and allowed one hit, three earned runs, and three walks Thursday night. He hit Neri, the lead off batter, in the top of the second inning, and then walked Andrew Williamson and Braden Calise before being yanked for relief pitcher Evan O’Toole. 

The Knights offense bagged four runs in the top of the second, beginning with two wild pitches being thrown to Mikey Kluska, with Neri coming in to to score their first run, and Williamson scoring on the second wild pitch to cut the lead to 4-2. 

Kluska cracked an RBI double to right field, scoring Calise to make it 4-3. A few moments later,  Lex Boedicker tied the game up at four with an RBI single into right field, scoring Kluska. 

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Benge lifted a solo home run over the right-center field wall to give OSU a 5-4 lead. 

“I’ve said many things about him within the course of the year and I can’t emphasize enough how he’s a gifted player. Carson is very special,” Holliday said. 

UCF starter Ben Vespi threw five innings and allowed five earned runs, four walks, and five strikeouts while facing 24 batters. 

In the top of the seventh inning, the Knights offense got a huge spark from Matt Cedarburg, who launched a two-run home run over the left field wall , scoring junior first baseman Lex Boedicker to grab a 6-5 lead. 

Oklahoma State did not back down quietly in the bottom of the eighth inning with senior third baseman Tyler Wulfert ripping a double to left field, scoring Forsythe to tie the game up at 6-6. 

UCF relief pitcher Dom Castellano came into the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and shut down the hard fought Oklahoma State University offense 1-2-3 to force extra innings, getting Benge to fly out to left field, Schubart to strikeout swinging, and junior designated hitter Aidan Meola. 

In the top of the 10th inning, Nessler knocked in the go-ahead run with a single, scoring Brait for a 7-6 UCF lead. 

During the bottom of the 10th inning, Castellano shut the door on the Cowboys’ bats, sending them down in order 1-2-3 by getting Bruggeman to ground out to first base, striking out junior catcher Ian Daugherty swinging, and striking out Forsythe looking. 

Oklahoma State will play No. 10 seed Texas Tech at 5 p.m. EST on May 24 on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ in an elimination game in the tournament’s third round. 

Central Florida will play the winner of Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at 8:30 p.m. EST in the second semifinal game on May 24. UCF is two wins away from their first conference championship in 22 years. They won the Atlantic Sun Conference championship in 2002, and has not appeared in the NCAA tournament since the 2017 season. The Knights won six Atlantic Sun Conference championships before they joined the AAC.

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Matt Tallarini
Matthew (Matt) Tallarini is the Founder and Chief Correspondent for the World Baseball Network. Matt played semi-professional baseball with the Pelham Mets in Pelham, New York for four years, including the 2018 Semi Pro World Series. During the pandemic, Matt began engaging with international baseball, as a way to keep connected to the sport. Matt created the World Baseball Network and its signature website, WorldBaseball.com as a way to promote and inform similar likeminded fans about the players, teams and leagues innovating the sport of baseball and feeding into Major League Baseball (MLB). As a result of Matt’s efforts, World Baseball Network is now the benchmark standard for international baseball coverage, including MLB, MiLB, NCAA, Korea, Japan, Caribbean, Baseball United, WBC, WBSC and more. In a short time, Matt has interviewed a who’s who of global baseball legends and coaches. These include: Former Yankee closer Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera; Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman; former Yankee Luis Sojo veteran of four Yankee World series teams; Mickey Callaway former MLB manager; Paul Mainieri LSU National Championship coach; Eric Holtz manager Team Israel of the 2020 Olympics; Ian Kinsler former MLB player and now Israel national team player; Harold Ramirez of the Tampa Bay Rays formerly with the Indians and Cubs; Joey Meneses of the Washington Nationals; and Mike Cameron current USA Baseball advisor former-MLB outfielder. Matt Tallarini is 2015 graduate of Mitchell College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and a 2022 graduate of Iona University with a Masters in Finance. Since its inception, Matt has been the Chief Correspondent for World Baseball Network. Matt has interviewed and interacted with many international players and coaches including former Yankee closer Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, former Yankee Luis Sojo veteran of four Yankee World series teams, Mickey Callaway former MLB manager, Paul Mainieri LSU National Championship coach, Eric Holtz manager Team Israel of the 2020 Olympics, Ian Kinsler former MLB player and now Israel national team player, Harold Ramirez of the Tampa Bay Rays formerly with the Indians and Cubs, Joey Meneses of the Washington Nationals, Mike Cameron current USA Baseball advisor former-MLB outfielder. Matthew is 2015 graduate of Mitchell College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and a 2022 graduate of Iona University with a Masters in Finance.