UCF Baseball Season Preview Part Five - Third Base and Outfield

Feb. 12, 2010

By Brian Ormiston

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The final four positions are broken down in part five of this year's baseball season preview with an inside look at third base and the outfield.

Part One - Initial Outlook & Starting Pitchers
Part Two - The Bullpen
Part Three - Catchers and First Basemen
Part Four - Middle Infielders

UCF has had several starters at third base in recent years, and in 2010, the hot corner might serve as the position to watch in the preseason. Jake Huxtable started 33 games at third in 2009 as a freshman, but there are plenty of newcomers who could challenge the Winter Springs native for the starting nod.

Third Base
Jake Huxtable - So. - R/R - .232, 7 2B, 3 HR, 19 RBI
Austin Johnston - Fr. - R/R - Hit .430 with 36 runs scored as a junior at Winter Haven High School
Derek Luciano - Jr. - L/R - Rated as Baseball America's fifth-best prospect in the 2009 Florida Collegiate Summer League

"There's a little bit of uncertainty in our infield due to some injuries," said Rooney. "Third base right now is still a battle between Derek Luciano, who was injured in the fall, Jake Huxtable and Austin Johnston. Along with Stephen Branca and Darnell Sweeney, all of those infielders are interchangeable. That's one of the good things about this team since they are all athletic and can do different things for us. But with Derek returning from his injury, we've got some very good battles at that spot."

Not many programs can boast having MLB Draft picks at all three outfield positions. Yet the Knights enter 2010 with two veteran seniors standing on opposite sides of a freshman who was drafted in the 11th round last summer.

A 2006 selection by White Sox, left fielder Chris Duffy already ranks tied for 10th all-time at UCF with 22 round-trippers, and right fielder Shane Brown was taken by the Yankees in 2009 after he led the Knights in batting average and doubles. While serving as roommates throughout their college careers, Orlando-area natives Duffy and Brown will have a lot of wisdom to help Ronnie Richardson in center.

Shane Brown - Sr. - R/R - .341, 20 2B, 6 HR, 44 RBI, All-C-USA Second Team
Anthony Caronia - Fr. - L/R - 2009 FACA Class 4A Player of the Year
Chris Duffy - Sr. - L/R - .285, 13 2B, 6 HR, 36 RBI
Alex Friedrich - So. - R/R - .227, 1 2B, 3 RBI
Ronnie Richardson - Fr. - S/R - 2009 11th round draft pick by Minnesota
Kevin Vasquez - Jr. - R/R - Posted a .352 average as a freshman at Pensacola Junior College

"Going into the season, Chris Duffy has earned our starting left field position. Ronnie Richardson is in center and Shane Brown is in right," said Rooney. "The key to Chris Duffy's season is going to be consistency. He's got great power and has been a great leader on this team. But he has to get consistent and this fall he did just that.

"Ronnie Richardson was the highest draft pick in this year's recruiting class, and is somebody who I think could be one of the best freshmen in the nation. He will play center and have a chance to leadoff. Ronnie and Darnell Sweeney are two freshmen who will be very special players for us this year.

"And obviously we are excited to have Shane Brown back. We expect him to have an All-American-type season for us. That's the type of player he is. We moved him to right field to utilize his arm a bit out there, and he acclimated himself to that position very well in the fall.

"We've got some great competition though. Kevin Vasquez is from Pensacola Junior College and has a chance to play quite a bit. Anthony Caronia is a guy who has a very bright future for us and has the opportunity to play numerous positions on the field. Those two players are two of the most athletic guys on our team. Kevin is very strong and quick who can do a couple different things, and Anthony is somebody that I feel has an awesome future. He was an infielder out of high school so he could see time there for us as well.

"And Alex Friedrich fits in with the group of players like Jake Huxtable and Beau Taylor who are returning position players who have gotten a lot better. Alex is a very athletic, fast player who made this team as a walk-on last season."