Countdown to Opening Knight: Season Preview - First Basemen

Feb. 12, 2012

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By Eric DeSalvo

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Part two of UCFAthletics.com's season preview of the 2012 UCF baseball team focuses on the first basemen, a group that includes Conference USA's Preseason Player of the Year in D.J. Hicks (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) and hard-hitting freshman James Vasquez (Palm City, Fla.)

First Basemen
-RJr. D.J. Hicks - NCBWA All-American will transition to first base full time after serving as team's DH in 2011, and will come out of the bullpen as well
-Fr. James Vasquez - Rookie will see time at first base and also roam the outfield, providing another left-handed bat in the lineup

The face may look different at first base in 2012, but the position will continue to provide much of the Knights' power numbers throughout the season. With Jonathan Griffin headed to the Arizona Diamondbacks after a stellar senior season that saw him smash 19 home runs, Hicks will once again be one of UCF's most feared hitter in the lineup.

After returning from a collapsed lung that sidelined him in 2010, Hicks mashed all year in 2011, as he led the team with a .351 batting average and collected 14 homers, 11 doubles, 66 RBI, 42 runs, a .583 slugging percentage and a .428 on-base percentage. He was named a semifinalist for the NCBWA Dick Howser Trophy, which is handed out to the nation's top player as well as a third-team All-American. He is still on the minds of many people as he was named the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year, as voted on by the league's nine coaches.

Hicks' counterpart at the bag, Vasquez, has come on strong since arriving on campus last fall. He earned four letters as a first baseman and outfielder at Martin County High School and was named Treasure Coast Players of the Year. With his strong presence inside the batter's box from the left side, Vasquez could turn out to be a hidden gem that surprises many opponents this year.

Opening Knight is quickly approaching, as UCF will open its newly renovated ballpark against Long Island this Friday at 6:30 p.m. in game one of a three-game weekend series. The game is FREE for everyone who makes it out to the UCF baseball complex. 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.