UCF Baseball Opens the Fall Season Sunday

Sept. 19, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Fans hoping to get a sneak peek at the 2009 UCF baseball team have a perfect opportunity to do so on Sunday when the Knights kick off the fall season at 5 p.m. at Jay Bergman Field. New head coach Terry Rooney will hold his first team practice at the ballpark, which will include an intra-squad scrimmage.

In the fall, UCF will practice from Sunday to Oct. 20 leading up to the Black & Gold World Series Oct. 21-23. All three of those games get underway at 8:30 a.m. and admission will be free.

Rooney explained that the Knights will hold scrimmages on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with team fundamentals set to take place the remaining practices. As for this Sunday, there will be a group of four pitchers ready to throw two innings each in a four-inning affair.

The skipper already has some goals in place for the upcoming month.

"Our overall goals for the fall are twofold," said Rooney. "Number one is that our whole approach is to try and implement a style of play. I want these guys to play with a certain level of energy and enthusiasm. When they learn that and enjoy being at the field every day and having that level of energy, then for me the rest of it takes care of itself. That's the biggest thing we are going to do. I look at the fall as a means to see if they can compete.

"Secondly, we want to input our basic philosophies. The big picture is to teach them the game the way it's meant to be played."

Along with accomplishing goals on the field, certain players may be hoping to get settled into some new positions. Senior first baseman Kiko Vazquez (Sebring, Fla.) could eventually move 90 feet and serve as one of UCF's catchers, while junior third baseman and designated hitter Chris Duffy (Orlando, Fla.) enjoyed time in the outfield during summer ball.

"With the number of players that we have right now, we're going to have a lot of people play a lot of different positions," admitted Rooney. "Kiko is going to catch a little bit this fall, but so are a lot of guys to be honest. From the coaches' aspect since this is our first year, this fall is an evaluation process. We're not going to focus on breaking swings down or breaking pitchers down mechanically. It's not that time of year to do that. Our entire focus is to evaluate what we have and see who can compete. That will allow us to have a better idea of what our team looks like.

"The situational and individual analysis will happen after the fall and through January when we come back. My philosophy which I learned from a lot of coaches that I have worked alongside with, is that I do not want to break guys down this time of year. I want to see what they have and what they are as a player. As a staff, we want to evaluate what their skills are, and within that, implement our own philosophy of simply how we want the game to be played. And this team is 100 percent going to play with a high level of energy, and probably with a level of energy they haven't experienced before."

UCF is coming off a 31-27 season, and will have a few holes to fill for 2009. Second baseman Dwayne Bailey, center fielder Tyson Auer, catcher Robert Lara and lefty starting pitchers Mitch Houck and Mitch Herold are all now with major league organizations. The Knights also lost right fielder Ryan Richardson and key reserve Tim Russell as both exhausted their eligibility.

To close the gaps, the Knights welcome nine newcomers whom all hail from the state of Florida, as overall, senior hurler Jaager Good (Atlanta, Ga.) is the only non-Florida native on the roster. Along with those newcomers, Good is prepared to rejoin the rotation after a mid-season injury forced him to the bench the rest of the 2008 and earn a redshirt.

The Black and Gold still has numerous bats returning, including Vazquez, Duffy, leading hitter junior Shane Brown and Conference USA Second Team member senior outfielder Colin Arnold. On the mound, senior starter Kyle Sweat and senior closer Justin Weiss are prepared to lead a staff that will have plenty of bullpen arms back for 2009.

While the complete 2009 season schedule will be released at a later date, the Rooney era will officially begin Feb. 20 when the Knights host Virginia Commonwealth in a four-game set at Jay Bergman Field. Ticket information also will be announced when it becomes available.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to www.UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit www.UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.