Countdown to Opening Day: Season Preview - Catchers

Feb. 8, 2011

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By Brian Ormiston

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Part one of UCFAthletics.com's season preview of the 2011 UCF baseball team focuses on the catchers, and there are several familiar faces back this season.

-Jr. Beau Taylor - Voted by the league's coaches as the best defensive catcher in Conference USA, carries over a 21-game hitting streak from last year
-So. Ryan Breen - Freshman All-American, will see time in left field
-So. Chris Taladay - C-USA Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American, starting third baseman may sit out early due to an injury
-Fr. Ethan Smith - Joins the team as a freshman walk-on

There really does not need to be anything else to describe this group. The accomplishments speak volumes for how talented the backstops are this year. How many programs can legitimately say they have three catchers who have been named a Freshman All-American during their careers? It does not happen often.

Well, UCF is one of those programs. Entering his junior campaign, Taylor brings a 21-game hitting streak into Opening Day, the third-longest in UCF history, and holds a .345 career batting average as the starting catcher. Taylor has thrown out 38 would-be basestealers in the previous two seasons.

But two sophomores back up Taylor and they could easily serve as D-I starting catchers on any club. That is why Breen and Taladay are in line to start for the Knights as well, but in other positions. Breen, who started nine games behind the plate, got a little taste of the outfield as a freshman, and may work in left field early in 2011. As the primary designated hitter last year, Breen hit .348 with 29 RBI and 11 stolen bases.

Taladay, meanwhile, took advantage of his chances in 2010 to evolve into the everday third baseman. And he proceeded to post a .352 average, eight homers, 47 RBI and a .955 fielding percentage at the hot corner. However an injury has limited Taladay's activity in the preseason and he is working to get back into the lineup as quickly as possible.

And Smith broke through during walk-on tryouts to grab a spot on the roster in the fall. As a freshman, he will be able to learn a lot from Taylor, Breen and Taladay throughout the year. And as head coach Terry Rooney always admits, if he can produce with the aluminum then more opportunities at the plate will arise. Two years ago Alex Friedrich made the roster as a walk-on and as a sophomore in 2010, he saw time in 23 games and boasted a .295 average.

Opening Day is right around the corner, as the Black and Gold will host Siena Friday, Feb. 18, at 6:30 p.m. in game one of a three-game weekend series. Season and single-game tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling (407) 823-1000 or by visiting UCFAthletics.com's Tickets section.