Baseball Opens Fall Practice

Oct. 17, 2005

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ORLANDO - The UCF baseball team started preparations for the 2006 season Monday with the first day of fall practice. The Golden Knights return 19 letterwinners from last season's 42-18 team, including the team's No. 1 starter in junior RHP All-American candidate Tim Bascom and redshirt sophomore RHP Taylor Meier. Meier, a freshman All-American in 2004, missed all of the 2005 campaign with an arm injury.

The Golden Knights will play in one of the nation's elite baseball conferences in Conference USA in 2006. The schedule in the spring includes home dates vs. Florida, Stetson, USF, Michigan and a three-game C-USA series with Rice.

"Things are going well," stated UCF head coach Jay Bergman. "We are ready to get started this next three weeks and see where the players are."

UCF has three weeks of fall practice, including Scout Day on October 31 at Jay Bergman Field. The Golden Knights will work out for the Major League Baseball scouts and be tested and timed in several drills while also holding an intersquad scrimmage.

"We have four athletes who are back this year after missing last season due to injury, so it is a different picture in terms of depth," added Bergman. "Our players will be challenged every weekend at a higher level in Conference USA. The new league is going to challenge our players and coaches and we will need to bring our `A' game every weekend in conference play."

Bascom headlines a pitching staff that has several talented arms. The Dunedin native was 10-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 2005, including 113 strikeouts in 113.1 innings of work. He led the team in victories, innings pitched and strikeouts en route to first team all-conference honors. He ranked 10th in UCF single-season history in innings pitched and sixth in the UCF annals in single-season strikeouts.

Meier is healthy after missing the entire 2005 season due to injury. The 6-6 right-hander was 6-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 2004 with 56 strikeouts in 74 innings. He was one of three All-Americans on the 2004 pitching staff, joining consensus All-American Matt Fox and Kyle Bono.

Redshirt senior Taylor Cobb is another power arm who returns to the pitching staff for the Golden Knights. The Jacksonville native did not play in 2004 due to an arm injury and struggled with his health in 2005, but is healthy and ready to go for 2006.

Pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Craig Cozart has perhaps the best overall depth on his pitching staff since joining the coaching staff at UCF. After Bascom, Meier and Cobb, Cozart has the return of several dependable bullpen arms in junior LHP Brian Brooks, senior RHP Dominic Petracca and redshirt sophomore RHP Brett Bordwine. Bordwine was the team's closer going into the 2005 season before suffering a season-ending injury in preseason practice last January.

Several talented freshmen should also vie for a spot in the starting rotation or in the bullpen. Two southpaws, Mitch Herold and Mitch Houck, are two freshmen who could see significant innings along with freshman RHP Kyle Sweat.

Offensively, UCF was hit hard by graduation and the draft with the loss of Dee Brown, John-Michael Howell, Marshall Bernhard and Drew Butera. UCF returns eight position players, led by senior C/1B Ryan Bono and redshirt junior INF Matt Horwath.

Bono is a three-year starter for the Golden Knights. He hit .282 with four home runs and 44 RBI in 2005. Horwath, who transferred from LSU prior to the 2005 season, hit .276 with eight homers and 35 RBI last year. Two-year starter Matt Ray returns as well after batting .279 with three long balls and 32 stolen bases a year ago.

Three incoming freshman could be starters in the outfield once the 2006 season commences. In center field, high school All-American Dave DiNatale brings impressive credentials to UCF. A 22nd round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, DiNatale is one of five freshmen on the team who were drafted last summer.

Melbourne native Shane Ynclan has shown the coaching staff excellent potential during fall individual workouts and could man another outfield position while Chadd Hartman is another talented newcomer with a potent bat.

Sophomore Tyson Auer and redshirt senior Drake Wade are two players with significant playing experience who are in the mix in the outfield.

Freshman first baseman Kiko Vazquez is another intriguing newcomer to watch this spring for the Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights open the 2006 season Saturday, Feb. 4 at Florida International.