UCF Begins 35th Season of Baseball Saturday at Jay Bergman Field

Jan. 31, 2007

Game Notes - FIU Series
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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - For the seventh-straight year, UCF begins the new season with a two-game set against Florida International this weekend. The start date of Feb. 3 is the earliest Golden Knights' season opener since the 2002 campaign.

Florida International - 0-0 Overall, 0-0 Sun Belt
UCF - 0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference USA
Jay Bergman Field (2,230)
FIU leads, 48-42
Friday - 740-AM The Team - Marc Daniels, Play-By-Play
Saturday - www.UCFAthletics.com
Live Stats
Both Games - www.UCFAthletics.com
UCF Baseball Ticket Information

The Opponent
Florida International is coming off a 36-24 record, and finished last year with a .313 team batting average. However, it was 9-14 away from its home field. The Golden Panthers outscored opponents 63-27 in the first inning, but were outscored in the ninth, 31-11.

The Series
FIU holds a 48-42 edge over UCF, but the Golden Knights are 7-5 since 2001 when the Golden Panthers served as the opponent for the grand opening of Jay Bergman Field. In the last three years, the home team has swept the two-game series.

UCF's Season Openers
Dating back to the first year of UCF baseball in 1973, the Golden Knights are 21-13 all-time in season openers. The Black and Gold had won four straight before suffering a 4-3 loss to FIU last year. When UCF battles a Florida school in the first game of a new campaign, the Golden Knights are 17-11.

Dating back to 1999, the last eight UCF openers have all been decided by four runs or less. In 1998, the Golden Knights posted their biggest opening day win, a 17-0 trouncing of Rollins College. Meanwhile, their worst loss was by five runs, which has occurred four different times.

What's New for 2007
The Golden Knights had a few holes to fill at the conclusion of 2006. They suffered the loss of a starting pitcher (Tim Bascom), a catcher (Ryan Bono), a third baseman (Matt Ray) and a right fielder (Dave DiNatale). Ray served as the leadoff hitter in 46 games last season, while Bono batted third in 36 contests.

To remedy these issues, UCF will use a mix of newcomers and returning players. While finding a third starter is still up in the air, freshman Chris Duffy is already making a name for himself at third with his potential at the plate and overall work ethic. Behind the plate, Steve Stropp made five starts in 2006 and he, along with Birmingham-Southern transfer Brandon Romans, could see most of the time as part of the UCF battery. And in the outfield, Ryan Richardson, who comes to UCF from Seminole C.C., Ryan Williams and Chadd Hartman could all get playing time in the corner outfield positions.

The Closer
UCF also lost its closer, Dominic Petracca, who saved eight games last year. The 2007 pitching staff has a combined nine career saves, led by Brian Brooks' five. Derek Abriola is the only other Golden Knight to have more than one save in his career (two).

What's His Story
Matt Horwath, who started 26 games at second as a junior, may start the year as UCF's designated hitter. The senior underwent surgery in the offseason and could return to the field very soon.

Silver Anniversary
Head coach Jay Bergman enters his 25th season as skipper of the UCF baseball team. With a career record of 1,156-656-3, he needs just two victories to jump into a tie for 21st on the NCAA Division I coaching list for career wins.

A New Man in Charge
Assistant coach Bryan Peters joined the UCF staff in the fall, and has already made big strides with the Golden Knight hitters. He will be looking to improve a team that went .275 at the plate in 2006, its lowest team batting average since 1994 (.250). On the basepaths, the Golden Knights tied for the second-lowest amount of stolen bases in program history by swiping just 59 a year ago. Since UCF has hit 31 or fewer home runs in four of the last five seasons, Peters will help the Golden Knights focus on the little things in order to score their runs.

Now to the Mound
Even though UCF posted some low marks with the stick, the pitching staff was busy holding hitters to a .257 average. The Golden Knight hurlers also struck out 439 hitters and notched seven shutouts.

Mitch Herold kept his composure with runners on base, limiting opponents to just 17 hits in 85 chances (.200). He served as part of the UCF trio of freshmen starters, where he combined with Mitch Houck and Kyle Sweat to start 31 games in 2006.

In 2007, a total of 11 right-handers make up the pitching staff, while UCF will have five southpaws to choose from, including Herold and Houck.

Getting Back on Track
For the first time under head coach Jay Bergman, UCF finished with a record under .500 in 2006. The Golden Knights were forced to play with numerous injuries and freshmen in the lineup, all while making their first appearance in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. They completed the year by placing ninth in C-USA.

Gotta Get the Runners Home
Close games were not very friendly to UCF in 2006. The Golden Knights were 4-11 in one-run games and 2-3 in extra innings. But when they scored in double-digits, they had a perfect 8-0 record and were 15-2 when scoring six or more runs.

Threatening the Career Charts
Many current Golden Knights rank in the top 10 of at least one career UCF statistical category. Brian Brooks enters 2007 fourth in relief appearances (60), seventh in overall appearances (63) and tied for ninth in saves (five). After just one year, Mitch Houck is fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.90). Offensively, Matt Horwath has been hit by a pitch 19 times to place eighth on the career leaderboard.

A Dynamic Schedule
With the first 25 of 28 games on its home turf, UCF has put together a schedule that is sure to please Golden Knight fans. After the opening weekend, UCF hosts No. 15 TCU, Feb. 9-11 and Maryland, Feb. 16-18. After the team travels to LSU for three contests Feb. 23-25, UCF will play 16-straight games at Jay Bergman Field Feb. 27-March 26.

UCF Baseball Broadcast Schedule
Every home game in 2007 will be aired live on 740-AM The Team or streamed over the internet at www.UCFAthletics.com. In all, 740-AM will broadcast 19 regular-season contests, including five road games, as well as every pitch of the postseason.

Baseball America's Preseason Thoughts
In Baseball America's college baseball season preview, John Manuel predicted UCF to finish in seventh place this season, ahead of Marshall and UAB. He also listed LHP Carmine Giardina as the third best newcomer in the league.

C-USA Preseason Announcement
Along with all of the main national polls, Rice earned the top spot in the 2007 Conference USA Preseason Baseball Coaches Poll. The Owls received all nine first-place votes to finish ahead of second-place Tulane. Houston, Southern Miss and East Carolina rounded out the top five. Rice's Joe Savery was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year, and teammate Cole St. Clair earned Preseason Pitcher of the Year honors.

In all, Rice had five players named to the All-Conference Team, with Tulane trailing closely behind with four players. Houston and Memphis each placed two players on the team, while Southern Miss and Marshall nabbed one spot apiece.

What a Weekend!!!
There was a lot to celebrate Jan. 26-28 on the UCF campus. The first Central Florida Celebrity Softball Classic took place and UCF head coach Jay Bergman was the featured guest. At the Fairwinds Alumni Center, the Celebrity Gala & Roast was held with Bergman being honored by the likes of Frank Viola and Davey Johnson. The following afternoon, plenty of former Golden Knight athletes such as Mike Maroth, Alex Haynes, Elton Patterson and Rashad Jeanty stepped onto Jay Bergman Field for a softball game in which the MLB pros defeated players from the NFL, 29-28. The weekend was capped off with Parents Day and a nine-inning scrimmage between current UCF players. Freshmen Austin Hudson and Carmine Giardina served as the starting pitchers for the exhibition game.