Baseball Update with Assistant Coaches Godwin, Palumbo

Feb. 15, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF baseball team has just three practices remaining after Sunday's scrimmage before Opening Day on Friday. UCFAthletics.com sat down with assistant coaches Cliff Godwin and Jeff Palumbo to discuss how the spring has progressed and what the Knights may work on this week to get ready for game No. 1.

Hitting Coach Cliff Godwin
What's in store during this week's practice schedule?
"We'll review some items that we've been going over, like bunt defense and first-and-third defense. But our guys have a pretty good grasp on all these things, so it'll be a refresher more than anything. The biggest thing is to get our guys in the right mindset to be ready to play on Friday night."

What has impressed you the most this spring?
"The guys' work ethic, and how they have gotten after it every single day since we got here in the fall as a coaching staff. After Christmas break they have been totally dedicated and going above and beyond everything we could ever ask of them."

Is there anything specifically that you want to concentrate on before Friday?
"One thing we do want to focus on during the last week is for guys to fill certain roles. There are going to be a few players who will be in new roles for them, both pitching and offensively. We hope those guys will accept those roles so they can help us be the best team we can be."

How have the players been responding to the coaches this month?
"We want our guys to want to be here. They show up early and get extra workouts in. They do that on their own. We don't require that, they just do it to get better. I think they have a lot of fun with each other, and it's becoming more exciting as we get closer. The guys are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and the anticipation is building. You can just tell that the guys are getting eager to play on Friday night."

There are a lot of talented freshmen on this year's roster. But can you talk about Austin Smith, Beau Taylor and D.J. Hicks, and how they have been looking so far?
"First off, Austin Smith is just a blue-collar kid. He plays hard and his swing has definitely gotten better since the fall. He'll be a big piece of our offensive scheme. He's either going to be hitting one or two, maybe nine, in the lineup.

"Beau Taylor might be the most improved freshman out of anybody. He's had a lot on his plate from a catching standpoint. He's always had a pretty good swing, but has gotten stronger and is driving the ball out of the park on a more consistent basis. I tell you, though, behind the plate he's come a long way. A lot of people have no idea how much he's matured at back there.

"D.J. Hicks is just the consummate professional, going about his business every single day. He comes up in big situations and gets hits, and obviously he's pitching for us and will play a big role on the mound."

Defensive Coach Jeff Palumbo
Are you happy with where this team is at defensively, and what do you plan on working on this week?
"I think right now from a defensive standpoint, the guys have prepared themselves very well for all the situations we have thrown at them. Over the course of the next week we are going to be doing a lot of reviewing, but I think the guys have a good understanding of the expectations we have set for them."

Explain how the scrimmages have been beneficial for the defense.
"We've had a lot of scrimmages leading up to game one, and I think game situations are always going to be the most realistic opportunities from an executing standpoint. It's hard to manipulate those situations in practice. We try and do it with some coach-pitch scrimmages to put the guys into situations with runners on base, but I don't think there's any replacement to being able to get out and scrimmage."

One collegiate baseball site said the outfield is the best in Conference USA, so how is it shaping up out there with Chris Duffy in left, Colin Arnold in right and a freshman, Austin Smith, in center?
"From a defensive standpoint, they have really come on since the fall. Those guys, during batting practice, have been able to take advantage of those live reads off the bat. They have really taken to what we expect from them during practice and it has really translated into the production on the field.

"Austin Smith has gotten more comfortable being in the middle, and all three of them have really worked together to form a defense in the outfield that is going to put us into a position to win baseball games. With Chris Duffy and Colin Arnold on the sides will really help Austin's development. Those are experienced guys who have done a great job being leaders on his left and right."

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