Baseball Entertains Savannah State during Opening Weekend at the Park

Feb. 18, 2010

By Brian Ormiston

Orlando, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Opening Day 2010 has arrived as the UCF baseball team collides with Savannah State Friday at 6:30 p.m. It will begin a stretch where the Knights play 19 of their first 21 games at home. Former UCF pitcher and Olympian Laurence Heisler (Greece, 2004 Athens Olympics) will throw out the first pitch.

UCF Game Notes in PDF Format

Friday - Orlando, Fla. - 6:30 p.m.
Saturday - Orlando, Fla. - 4 p.m.
Sunday - Orlando, Fla. - 1 p.m.
Savannah State - 0-0 Overall, Independent
UCF - 0-0 Overall, 0-0 C-USA
Jay Bergman Field (2,230)
First Meeting
Live Stats:
Live Video:
Friday: 740-AM with Scott Adams on the Call
Saturday and Sunday: UCFAthletics.com

Opening Day History
-The Knights hold a 21-16 overall record in season-openers, including victories in the previous two Opening Day games.
-Last year, Terry Rooney made his head coaching debut and posted a 10-2 triumph over Virginia Commonwealth in front of 1,897 fans.

Upcoming Opponent
-Closing 2009 with a 25-26 record, Savannah State led the NCAA with 169 stolen bases last year, ensuring that the UCF battery will be tested to keep runners at bay early in 2010.
-Outfielder Dexter Kelley returns after pacing the Tigers with 33 steals. However Tristan Smith (31) and David Washington (26) were both seniors in `09 and will be missed on the basepaths.
-SSU finished the campaign with a .312 team batting average while posting a 6.65 ERA on the mound.

The Series
-This will be the first time UCF and Savannah State meets on the diamond.

Opening Day Start
-Newcomer Owen Dew gets the nod to start Opening Day Friday.
-The junior out of Tallahassee was ranked as the fourth-best newcomer in Conference USA this season by Baseball America.
-A 33rd round draft pick by the Angels last summer, Dew was a member of the All-Mid Florida Conference First Team for the Seminole State College of Florida in 2009.

Previous Opening Day Starting Pitchers
Since 2001:
2001: Justin Pope (L), 5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 9 K
FIU def. UCF, 6-2 - Orlando, Fla.
2002: Lincoln Mincks (ND), 5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 6 K
UCF def. FIU, 5-4 - Miami, Fla.
2003: Von Stertzbach (ND), 5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 10 K
FIU def. UCF, 8-7 - Orlando, Fla.
2004: Matt Fox (W), 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 10 K
UCF def. FIU, 6-2 - Miami, Fla.
2005: Mike Billek (ND), 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 5 K
UCF def. FIU, 3-2 - Orlando, Fla.
2006: Tim Bascom (L), 4.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 K
FIU def. UCF, 4-3 - Miami, Fla.
2007: Kyle Sweat (L), 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 K
FIU def. UCF, 5-3 - Orlando, Fla.
2008: Jaager Good (W), 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8 K
UCF def. Florida A&M, 17-1 - Orlando, Fla.
2009: Kyle Sweat (W), 5.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 7 K
UCF def. VCU, 10-2 - Orlando, Fla.

What is Returning
The top returning players for 2010:
-RF Shane Brown (2B in `09) - .341, 73 H, 20 2B
-C Beau Taylor - .335, 55 H, 26 runners CS
-IF/RP D.J. Hicks - .301, 8 HR, 4-5, 3 SV
-LF Chris Duffy - .285, 6 HR, 36 RBI
-2B Stephen Branca - .353, 2 HR in four games
-RP Jordan Rasinski - 4.05 ERA, 2-0, 1 SV
-RP Cory Weech - 5.96 ERA, 4-1, 1 SV

What is Lost
-CF Colin Arnold - .337, 41 R, 7 SB
-RF Brandon Romans - .333, 14 HR, 49 RBI
-1B Kiko Vazquez - .305, 60 H, 14 2B, 42 RBI
-SS Eric Kallstrom - .265, 25 R, 10 SH
-SP Kyle Sweat - 4.60 ERA, 3-4, 74.1 IP, 50 K
-SP Jaager Good - 5.87 ERA, 46.0 IP, 37 K
-SP Caleb Graham - 5.94 ERA, 4-3, 69.2 IP, 56 K
-RP Justin Weiss - 8.27 ERA, 5 SV, 16.1 IP, 20 K

What is New for 2010
-What's new has certainly given UCF a lot of national attention. Rooney and his staff witnessed their recruiting class be ranked No. 4 in the country by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and No. 10 by Baseball America.
-Baseball America placed three of those players in its top-10 newcomers of C-USA:
No. 1 - CF Ronnie Richardson
No. 4 - RHP Owen Dew
No. 9 - SS Darnell Sweeney
-All three are slated to be starters on Opening Day.

On the Mend
-D.J. Hicks has made a lot of progress in recovering from a non-baseball related injury in the offseason. Originally thought to be out until late March, Hicks is hoping to return to the lineup possibly in February.
-Junior college transfer Alex Besaw, who was in line to be in the starting rotation, will open 2010 with an injury. The coaches are hoping to have him make his debut in the coming weeks.

The Look
When UCF takes the field, it claims MLB draft picks at seven of the nine positions:
RHP/1B D.J. Hicks - 2008 49th Round
RHP Alex Besaw - 2009 32nd Round
RHP J.M. Blake - 2008 32nd Round
RHP Owen Dew - 2009 33rd Round
1B Jonathan Griffin - 2007 41st Round, 2008 45th Round
2B Stephen Branca - 2007 34th Round
SS Darnell Sweeney - 2009 41st Round
LF Chris Duffy - 2006 9th Round
CF Ronnie Richardson - 2009 11th Round
RF Shane Brown - 2009 47th Round

Sugar Shane and the Duff Man
-Orlando area natives and roommates since their freshman seasons, Shane Brown and Chris Duffy kick off 2010 as two important senior leaders for the Knights.
-Combined, the duo have posted 305 hits, 37 homers and 206 RBI in their careers.
-Brown already ranks fifth all-time at UCF with 33 hit by pitches and 10 sacrifice flies.
-Duffy, meanwhile, claims 10th place with 22 career dingers.
-With Duffy in left and Brown in right, their experience will surround a newcomer in center field as freshman Ronnie Richardson begins his first year at the Division I level.

Take On Me
-Rockledge's Beau Taylor will be trying to improve on a freshman campaign where he became the first catcher in UCF history to be named a Freshman All-American.
-Taylor finished 2009 with a .335 average, 15 doubles, four homers, 26 runners caught stealing and a .981 fielding percentage.

I'm Still Standing
-Injuries plagued Stephen Branca last year, who was supposed to be UCF's starting second baseman in 2009. He would recover to play in four games from March 8-13 only to return to the training room for the rest of the year.
-During that four-game span, Branca did go 6-for-17 with two homers and five RBI. As a freshman in 2008, he had just three hits, no long balls and four RBI in 26 games.
-Branca does start the year with an injury, but is attempting to get back in the lineup soon.

Forever Young
-UCF could have at least three freshmen in the Opening Day starting lineup with center fielder Ronnie Richardson, second baseman Austin Johnston and shortstop Darnell Sweeney slated at the top of the depth chart.
-Since 1998, only 10 freshmen have received an Opening Day start, including four in 2006.

You Belong to the City
-A total of 11 players on the 2010 roster hail from the Orlando area.
-Meanwhile, 19 Knights call the central Florida region home, and overall 32 of 35 student-athletes are Florida residents.

Our House
-UCF set a school record last year by averaging 1,088 fans per home game.
-The Knights also broke the single-game (2,758) and series (5,582) attendance records a year ago.