Baseball Practice Report - Feb. 10

Feb. 10, 2010

By Brian Ormiston

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF held an evening scrimmage at the stadium Wednesday night, and the hitters brought out the long ball, including one that creeped over the newly-formed four-foot fence in right field.

Before the intrasquad kicked off, the Knights' outfielders worked on hitting their cutoff men and midway through the entire defense looked flawless. When the outfielders went for a drink of water, associate head coach Cliff Godwin used the machine to send hard short-hop groundballs to the catchers and infielders so they could get more experience on how to square up to the ball and snag it or knock it down with their bodies.

"Everything we do in practice is game speed," said second-year head coach Terry Rooney. "When we practice at game speed, then once the games come we will be able to play with confidence. At the beginning of practice today we did a drill series that tested our guys. It tested our focus and our discipline and I thought they responded very well. But we need to do that every day and we need to keep getting better at it. We haven't been doing it consistently enough, and I challenged the guys tonight to repeat it every single day that we come out here, that we are going to play at game speed. We play 56 games and we are going to practice the way we play."

The seven-inning game eventually got underway, and in the top of the second sophomore Jordan Rasinski was greeted by back-to-back solo homers by Darnell Sweeney (over the four-foot fence) and Beau Taylor of the White team. An inning later, Kevin Vazquez cut the Black team's deficit in half with a RBI double against righty Scott Robinson in the third frame.

That momentum would be short lived as Chris Duffy demolished an offering from Cory Weech just inside the right-field foul pole and well over the bullpen in the fourth inning. The homer trend continued a couple of batters later when Shane Brown followed Derek Luciano's single with a two-run shot to right. The lead would swell to 7-1 thanks to a defensive miscue.

The relievers would settle things down in the late innings with guys like Matt Manning and J.M. Blake pitching scoreless frames. The final run came across in the final inning on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Duffy to give White the 8-1 win.

"The most important thing that I'm looking for as we approach Feb. 19 is that we are able to play the game and compete from start to finish," said Rooney. "And tonight we played under the lights for a reason, because I wanted to see in this environment, at this time of night and with this weather, if we can sustain it for a whole game. That's what I'm looking to see. Mentally and physically are we at the point where we can play every single pitch on both sides. When you have a different routine like we did tonight, you see what kind of will the guys have and I thought they did a good job."

Rooney also touched on the look of his pitching staff as Opening Day draws near.

"Starting this weekend I am going to look at establishing some roles with our pitchers. At the beginning of the season a lot of guys are going to see time because a lot of pitch counts are a work in progress. But a guy who has really done well in the last two weeks is Matt Manning. He sat out last year (with an injury) and has done a very good job this spring out of the bullpen. He's an older guy who is very competitive on the mound and attacks hitters. For a pitcher coming out of the pen, those are two qualities I look for. Matt has a chance to be a very good reliever for us."

The Knights will have just seven more workout sessions before Opening Day Feb. 19 against Savannah State.

Season tickets for the 2010 campaign are already on sale. The Knights will play 36 games at home this year including Opening Day Feb. 19, and reserved chairbacks are just $199, while reserved bleacher seats are only $150. Faculty/staff, youth and senior season tickets are $99. To purchase tickets, call 407-823-1000 or visit UCFAthletics.com.

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