This is head coach Terry Rooney’s second recruiting class at UCF as he is entering his third year with the Knights in 2010-11. Last year, he along with associate head coach Cliff Godwin and assistant coach Jeff Palumbo brought in 21 players who combined to be ranked as the No. 4 class in the nation by Collegiate Baseball.
“To have back-to-back top-20 recruiting classes in the entire nation clearly demonstrates the direction of this program,” said Rooney. “Along with the impressive upcoming stadium renovations, this will continue to help UCF climb back into the national spotlight. I certainly want to thank coach Godwin and coach Palumbo on their tireless efforts into making this class one of the best in all of college baseball.”
Among the top-20 classes this season, 14 schools brought in more players than the Knights, proving that even though UCF’s class is smaller than last year it still contains a lot of talent.
And they will join a program that in 2010 posted its most victories (33-22) since 2005, while its returning hitters combined to hit .318 last season. UCF lost just two starting position players and only one starting pitcher off last year’s squad.
Overall, eight of UCF’s 11 newcomers are pitchers highlighted by four southpaws. Junior righty Matt Collins comes to UCF after playing at Daytona State College as well as at DeLand High School where he had a 1.89 ERA as a senior. And freshman lefty Trevor Berry also hails from the Orlando area, competing for Oviedo High School and boasting credentials that include making the Prospectwire top-100 list for the state of Florida.
Four more junior pitchers are now suiting up in Black and Gold as well. Right-hander Ray Hanson was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 47th round in June after completing his sophomore campaign at Cypress College in California. Lefty Chris Matulis will sit out this year after transferring from LSU, but combined to go 11-5 in 25 games with the Tigers and was taken in the 47th round by Tampa Bay in 2008. Left-hander Mark Peterson out of Fort Pierce, Fla., heard his name called in the 50th round of the 2007 draft by Tampa Bay, and righty Danny Winkler was drafted in the 43rd round in 2010 by the Chicago Cubs thanks to an impressive season at Parkland College in Illinois.
Capping off the pitching staff and joining Berry as one of three freshmen hurlers are lefty Jeff Dally and right-hander Ben Lively. A Hernando, Fla., resident, Dally was a Perfect Game/Rawlings 2010 All-Region Preseason Second Team honoree. And Lively was UCF’s highest draft pick after being taken in the 26th round by Cleveland in 2010. A native of Gulf Breeze, Fla., Lively was ranked No. 38 in the state of Florida by Perfect Game and No. 235 nationally.
The coaching staff also brought in three position players for 2011. Junior infielder Travis Shreve traveled to Orlando from Skagit Valley College where he was a Washington State Baseball Coaches Association All-State First Team member in 2008. Fellow junior utility player Erik Hempe hails from Anaheim, Calif., and was a first-team all-California honoree as a teammate of Hanson’s at Cypress College a year ago, while freshman infielder Spencer Haynes out of Valrico, Fla., was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 43rd round this past summer.
Fans looking to catch a glimpse of this year’s class as well as all of the returning players have an excellent opportunity to do so this fall. The Knights have already started their fall workouts as they train in the afternoons with scrimmages to be held Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Sunday’s sessions typically begin at 5 p.m.