Baseball Kicks Off Preseason Camp with First Practice of 2011

Jan. 28, 2011

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By Brian Ormiston

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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - For the first time in 2011, UCF baseball took the field as a team Friday as the Knights opened up preseason camp. The Black and Gold will practice for three weeks leading up to Opening Day Feb. 18 against Siena.

The afternoon started up at 2:30 p.m. with daily stretching exercises followed up with some long toss. At 3 p.m., the Knights focused on defensive drills for 20 minutes.

After some field prep, UCF broke into teams for its first scrimmage of the preseason. Click on the link above for a couple snapshots of the action.

Notes from the team's first scrimmage:
-All the pitchers were scheduled for four innings of work, but the scrimmage was halted at seven innings.
-Head coach Terry Rooney has listed six potential starting position players going into Friday, and that group teamed up as the visitors to face right-hander Danny Winkler and lefty Joe Rogers.
-Those six starters include: Junior catcher Beau Taylor, senior first baseman Jonathan Griffin, junior second baseman Travis Shreve, sophomore shortstop Darnell Sweeney, sophomore center fielder Ronnie Richardson and junior right fielder Erik Hempe (redshirt sophomore D.J. Hicks is lined up to be the starting DH and come out of the pen, and he played first base for the home team Friday).
-Rooney has mentioned Winkler as a candidate for the Friday or Saturday night starter, while Rogers will likely return as the closer after being a Freshman All-American in 2010.
-The offense went to work in the top of the first where Sweeney singled, Richardson notched a base hit with the runner moving and Taylor added a RBI groundout.
-After giving up that run in the first, Winkler settled down and looked strong the next two innings. However a walk to Richardson, a two-base error and a RBI groundout by Hempe closed the four innings for Winkler, who had two strikeouts and surrendered only two first-inning hits in his outing.
-With Chris Taladay still recovering from an injury and limited to left field duties, the third base battle resumed Friday with a pair of Knights making sensational defensive plays. Austin Johnston robbed Spencer Haynes of a single with a diving stop at third base in the bottom of the first, and Derek Luciano then sat down Johnston the next half inning when Johnston laid down a bunt only to have Luciano bare hand it and make a diving throw to get the out at first. Both Knights have experience as starters, as Luciano was the top third baseman last year as a JUCO transfer only to suffer an injury early in the year and Johnston was the starting second baseman as a freshman in 2010.
-Johnston, who made another solid play at third in the third inning, and Luciano combined for three doubles at the plate as well on Friday.
-Sophomore southpaw Brian Adkins struck out one in a scoreless first only to have Kevin Vasquez single home Ryan Breen in the bottom of the second following a Breen single and Alex Friedrich sac bunt. Vasquez also would score on a two-out single off the bat of Haynes. Vasquez collected another RBI on a single in the third that plated Luciano. In Adkins' final inning, Breen drove in Luciano for the home team's fourth run.
-Shreve demonstrated his wheels in the second by easily stealing second.
-Taylor showed off his arm behind the plate, though, by removing Haynes from the bases in the second with Adkins on the mound.
-In Rogers' first inning, a Johnston double and Sweeney RBI groundout gave the visitors their third run of the day. Rogers' next two frames produced three strikeouts, yet a two-run double by Hempe scored Richardson and Griffin in the seventh which cut the visitors' deficit to 6-5.
-Senior reliever Chase Bradford took over for Adkins in the fifth and struck out a pair in his first inning of work. In his second inning, Bradford recorded another strikeout only to give up a pair of two-out runs (Vasquez once again with a RBI single as well as a RBI double out of Michael Holmes). In the seventh, Bradford added one more strikeout to close the door on the home team's 6-5 win.

UCF will resume its camp Saturday at noon and fans are welcome to check out all of the team's practices prior to Opening Day.

Saturday also marks Fan Fest presented by B2 Café at The Venue with doors opening at 5 p.m. Fans are invited to pick up this year's poster and schedule card, and get autographs of the entire team. And for just $5, Knights supporters can purchase a meal ticket that will allow them to be eligible to win prizes such as accommodations and tickets to the FSU series in May, Blue Man Group tickets, UCF football tickets and gift certificates.

Season tickets are on sale as well with several different packages to choose from, including a C-USA pack and an affordable Family Pack. Call the UCF Ticket Office at (407) 920-1233 or visit UCFAthletics.com for more details.