ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – Highlighted by 34 games at John Euliano Park, the UCF baseball team unveiled its 2019 schedule on Wednesday. The 53-game slate features 25 games against teams that reached the NCAA Tournament in 2018.
Head coach Greg Lovelady returns for his third season at the helm, after becoming the fastest coach to 75 wins in program history. Lovelady’s staff features returning assistants Ryan Klosterman (8th season) and Ted Tom (2nd season), along with first-year pitching coach Nick Otte.
The Knights went 35-21 in 2018 with a 13-10 record in The American, but just missed out on their second straight berth to the NCAA Tournament as one of the first four teams out. Pitcher Thad Ward and first baseman Rylan Thomas were named to The American First Team.
UCF will look to replace four seniors and six players that were taken in the MLB Draft. Lovelady and his staff brought in a 17-man recruiting class at the start of the year, featuring righty Trevor Holloway, graduate transfer Grant Schuermann and utility player Jordan Rathbone. Rookies Nolan Lepkoske and Zack Hunsicker have made an impact in the early stages of the fall.
The Black and Gold return the majority of the lineup, including American Athletic Conference Second Team selections Dallas Beaver, Tyler Osik, Matthew Mika and Ray Alejo. Pitchers Garrett Westberg, Jordan Spicer and Jeffrey Hakanson are back after impressive 2018 campaigns.
25 games against 2017 NCAA Regional teams
6 games against 2017 NCAA Super Regional teams (Stetson, Auburn, Florida)
1 game against a 2017 College World Series team (Florida)
6 games against the RPI Top-10
17 games against the RPI Top-25
25 games against the RPI Top-50
35 games against the RPI Top-100
12 home games in The American
MARQUEE MATCHUPS AT JOHN EULIANO PARK
Auburn, Feb. 22-24
After an Opening Weekend series against Siena, the Knights will square off with Auburn. The Tigers are coming off a 2018 season that saw them finish in all the final Top 25 polls after a NCAA Super Regional appearance against Florida. On the diamond, the Knights and the Tigers have faced off five times with the latter holding a 4-1 advantage. The last meeting came in the 2017 NCAA Tallahassee Regional, where Auburn came away with a 7-4 victory.
Penn State, March 8-10
UCF will face Penn State for the first time in program history. It will mark the first time the Knights will go up against an opponent from the Big Ten since 2016 when UCF fell to Michigan State, 6-2, at the Kleberg Bank Classic in Corpus Christi, Texas. Penn State will be the first Big Ten team to come to John Euliano Park since 2014 when Michigan came to Orlando for a midweek series. It will be the first weekend series against a Big Ten opponent in 20 years, when the Knights hosted Northwestern for three games in 1998.
UConn, March 29-31
The Knights will add to a budding rivalry against the Huskies that started back in 2013. During a frigid series in which the Black and Gold played through sub-freezing temperatures on the road, UCF managed to take the opening game against UConn before the hosts swept a Sunday doubleheader to win the series. The Huskies hold a 11-7 series advantage.
South Florida, April 5-7
The War On I-4 returns to John Euliano Park in early April for a series that will be crucial to The American standings. Last year, the Knights opened up the weekend series with a 1-0 win on Friday, but the Bulls rallied to take the final two games. The longest-running series in program history will reach 140 games played at the conclusion of the 2019 edition. UCF will look to trim South Florida’s narrow 71-66 all-time advantage.
Houston, May 16-18
The regular season concludes with a showdown against the Cougars at John Euliano Park. UCF went to Houston last season and took two of three from the conference leaders, but the Cougars edged the Black and Gold 6-2 in an elimination game at the 2018 American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Knights are 22-28 against the Cougars all time in a series that dates back to 1990. Since joining The American in 2014, Houston holds a one-game series lead at 9-8.