UCF Baseball Set for 2009 Opening Weekend

Feb. 19, 2009

ORLANDO - From the moment UCF hired Terry Rooney on June 12, 2008, Knight fans, students and alumni immediately began looking forward to Opening Day 2009. That date is finally upon us, as the Black and Gold hosts Virginia Commonwealth at the UCF baseball complex Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the first of a four-game series, sponsored by Holler-Classic Automotive.

Game Notes in PDF Format

Friday - 6:30 p.m.
Saturday - 4 p.m.
Sunday - 1 p.m.
Monday - 1 p.m.
Virginia Commonwealth - 0-0 Overall, 0-0 CAA
UCF - 0-0 Overall, 0-0 C-USA
Jay Bergman Field (2,230)
First Meeting
740-AM and www.UCFAthletics.com
Live Stats:

This Weekend's Festivities
All four games will feature Opening Day placard giveaways, while fans also have the chance at collecting the first in a series of baseball trading cards. Along with a t-shirt toss each contest, Monday's outing will allow little league kids who wear their full uniform to get in free with a full price adult.

Opening Day History
The Knights claim a 20-16 record in season-openers, including a 17-1 win over Florida A&M a year ago. That win was the second-largest margin of victory for the Knights in Opening Day history (17-0 at Rollins in 1998). In the triumph over the Rattlers, Jaager Good allowed just two hits in 5.2 innings while former second baseman Dwayne Bailey was 5-for-5 with four runs scored.

Upcoming Opponent
Virginia Commonwealth returns 17 letterwinners from a 2008 squad that went 15-30 overall and 8-17 in the CAA. The Rams' top pitcher, Cody Eppley, may have been drafted last year, but they still welcome back many experienced hurlers like senior lefty Ian Thomas (3-3, 4.45 ERA). The VCU pitching staff posted a 6.17 team ERA, while at the plate the Rams finished with a .283 average. Senior outfielder Justin Wright notched a .311 mark at the plate with 12 doubles a year ago.

The Series
UCF and VCU have never met on the baseball field. The Knights also will face Hartford and Northern Iowa for the first time in program history later this season.

A Very Meaningful Game
Terry Rooney is serving as just UCF's fifth head coach since the program's inception in 1973. Three of the four previous skippers each won in their respective coaching debuts, with Bill Moon the only leader of the Knights to fall in his first game in 1978 (he later would take UCF to the NCAA D-II Regional in 1979).

Tough to Replace
Catcher Rob Lara (19th round), second baseman Dwayne Bailey (senior, 21st round), center fielder Tyson Auer (senior, free agent contract), right fielder Ryan Richardson (senior) and lefties Mitch Herold (16th round) and Mitch Houck (17th round) all were either drafted or graduated following the 2008 season.

To fill in the gaps offensively, Brandon Romans enters his senior year at catcher after 51 starts from 2007-08, and sophomore Stephen Branca impressed in the fall to earn the starting nod at second. In the oufield, senior left fielder Colin Arnold moves over to right, junior third baseman/DH Chris Duffy heads to left and freshman Austin Smith joins the mix in center.

What's New for 2009
Along with a brand new coaching staff of Terry Rooney, Cliff Godwin, Jeff Palumbo and Aaron Smith, the Knights also will have several new players on the field for `09. Offensively, possible Knights that could have impacts in the starting lineup right away are first baseman/designated hitter D.J. Hicks and center fielder Austin Smith.Hicks will likely be the starting pitcher on Sunday as well, with fellow freshmen Anthony Figliolia and Bryan Brown looking to log several innings on the mound.

Also of note, fans will notice that UCF's black and white uniforms now sport last names on the back, while its road grays remain with just numbers.

Not Very Often
With D.J. Hicks slated to start Sunday, it would mark just the second time from 2000-09 that a freshman will have started in one of UCF's first three games of a season. Kyle Sweat was the other hurler to receive a start that early in his career when he did not get a decision (5.2 IP) in an 8-4 win at Bethune-Cookman Feb. 7, 2006. Before 2000, eventual first-round draft pick Justin Pope started game two of the 1999 campaign as a freshman.

Electric Six
The Knights have 13 seniors on this year's roster, and six of those student-athletes have all provided several memories since stepping foot on campus as freshmen. Pitcher Jaager Good is the lone Knight who experienced the Atlantic Sun days before UCF moved over to C-USA for the 2006 campaign, and he gets 2009 underway after earning a medical redshirt last year. Chadd Hartman, Eric Kallstrom, Kyle Sweat, Kiko Vazquez and Justin Weiss, meanwhile, started their collegiate careers in Black and Gold uniforms in 2006.