For the first time since 2001, the UCF baseball team finds itself ranked in Baseball America’s preseason Top-25 rankings. The Knights check in at No. 21 in the country boasting a strong returning lineup that advanced to its first NCAA Tournament in seven years in 2011.
This is the second time under fourth-year head coach Terry Rooney that the Knights have found themselves in the national polls. Last year, UCF entered the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll on March 28 at No. 23.
“We are excited to be ranked in the preseason Top 25 in the country,” Rooney said. “Whereas our focus continues to be on the daily process, I am pleased that the program and most importantly the players are being recognized for their efforts.”
After finishing the 2011 season with a RPI of 22, the Knights will continue to face some of the nation’s best in 2012 as they go head-to-head with No. 1 Florida (Feb. 22), No. 6 Rice (May 17-19), No. 18 Miami (March 14, April 4) and No. 20 Florida State (March 6-7).
Compiling a 39-23 record, and school-best 12-12 mark in Conference USA, the Knights return seven position players that logged at least 150 at-bats. As a club, UCF ranked among the nation’s top 25 in batting (.307), slugging (.463), scoring (6.9 runs per game) and doubles (138, No. 8 in the country).
Seniors Erik Hempe (Anaheim, Calif.) and Travis Shreve (Auburn, Wash.) along with juniors Ryan Breen (Palm City, Fla.), D.J. Hicks (Altamonte Springs, Fla.), Ronnie Richardson (Eagle Lake, Fla.), Darnell Sweeney (Miramar, Fla.) and Chris Taladay (Windermere, Fla.) all return to give the Knights a potent mixture of speed and power from top to bottom in the lineup.
Taking the bump once again for the Knights in 2012 will be junior Brian Adkins (Orlando, Fla.) and sophomore Ben Lively (Gulf Breeze, Fla.) who recorded six and five wins, respectively, in 2011. Junior Joe Rogers (Winter Haven, Fla.) will return to anchor the backend of the bullpen with 17 career saves to his name.
The Knights will also add in a mixture of newcomers highlighted by junior college transfers C/OF Nick Carrillo (Phoenix, Ariz.), RHP Roman Madrid (Victoria, Texas) and RHP Jimmy Reed (Mount Vernon, Wash.) alongside rookies RHP Ryan Meyer (Oviedo, Fla.), RHP Garrett Nuss (Sorrento, Fla.), LHP Eric Skoglund (Sarasota, Fla.) and INF James Vasquez (Palm City, Fla.).
With 10 NCAA Regional appearances, the Knights are aiming for their first trip to a Super Regional in 2012.
The 2012 home schedule features 38 home games, highlighted by six meetings against preseason Top-25 teams with No. 6 Rice, No. 18 Miami and No. 20 FSU all coming to the UCF baseball complex. Opening Knight will also be FREE for all on Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. against Long Island. To secure your tickets for all of the exciting action, call (407) 823-1000 or visit UCFAthletics.com.