Baseball Tabbed to Finish No. 2 in C-USA, Earns Preseason Honors

Jan. 26, 2012

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By Eric DeSalvo

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Conference USA announced its 2012 preseason baseball awards Thursday afternoon and No. 21 UCF made quite an impression on the nine league coaches. The Knights were tabbed to finish second overall, including one first-place vote, behind traditional conference-power No. 6 Rice, and 1B/RHP D.J. Hicks (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) was chosen as the preseason Player of the Year.

Hicks was not the only Knight to earn recognition by the league as fellow juniors OF Ronnie Richardson (Eagle Lake, Fla.) and SS Darnell Sweeney (Miramar, Fla.) were all named to the all-conference team. Altogether, the Knights had the second-most selections on the preseason team with three.

These are the first preseason C-USA awards for the Knights since Kiko Vazquez and Tyson Auer were named to the all-conference team in 2008.

The 2011 season for the trio of Knights was an impressive one as Hicks was a third team NCBWA All-American, semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy and second team All-Conference USA selection after leading the team with a .351 batting average and driving home 66 runners.

Starting in all 62 games last year, Sweeney swiped 12 bases, had 17 doubles, three triples, a homer, 45 RBI and 43 runs scored, while Richardson hit .312 with 12 doubles, four triples, two homers, 34 RBI and a team-high 59 runs. Richardson also walked 36 times, had a .440 on-base percentage and was 15-for-20 in stolen bases.

Overall, the No. 2 predicted conference finish is the highest for the Knights since joining C-USA in 2006. The 2011 season was yet another improvement for UCF as it finished with a 39-23 record, a school-best 12 wins in C-USA to place fourth overall in the league standings and its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2004.

The Knights will open up the 2012 season with their first team practice of the new year Friday at 2:30 p.m. UCF will take the field on Opening Knight against Long Island Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free for all who come out to the newly-renovated UCF baseball complex. To secure your tickets for all of the exciting action this season, call (407) 823-1000 or visit UCFAthletics.com.

Predicted Order of Finish (First Place Votes in Parenthesis)
1. Rice (8)
2. UCF (1)
3. East Carolina
4. Southern Miss
5. Houston
6. Tulane
7. Memphis
8. UAB
9. Marshall

Player of the Year
D.J. Hicks, UCF, (Junior, Designated Hitter/RHP)

Pitcher of the Year
Austin Kubitza, Rice (Sophomore, RHP)

All-Conference Team
P Kevin Brandt, Sr. East Carolina
P Austin Kubitza, So. Rice
P Dillon Napoleon, Sr. UAB
RP Tyler Duffey, Jr. Rice
C Jeremy Schaffer, Sr. Tulane
C Zach Wright, Sr. East Carolina
IF Chase Jensen, Jr. Houston
IF Darnell Sweeney, Jr. UCF
IF Corey Thompson, Sr. East Carolina
IF Jacob Wilson, Sr. Memphis
OF Kameron Brunty, Sr. Southern Miss
OF Jeremy Rathjen, Jr. Rice
OF Michael Ratterree, Jr. Rice
OF Ronnie Richardson, Jr. UCF
DH/UT D.J. Hicks Jr. UCF