ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – UCF Baseball is finally back. On Friday, the Knights will open the 2019 season at John Euliano Park with a three-game series against Siena. Start times for Friday and Saturday are 6 p.m. and Sunday is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
Marc Daniels will have the call on Opening Knight on 96.9FM/740AM The Game. All three games will be streamed on UCFKnights.TV.
Head coach Greg Lovelady enters his third year in charge looking to lead the Knights to their second postseason appearance in three seasons. The UCF skipper has the most wins by any coach in his first two years at the helm with a mark of 75-43. Last year, the Black and Gold went 35-21 and finished on the outside looking in as one of the “First Four Teams Out” of the NCAA Tournament.
The Knights were tabbed to finish fourth in the American Athletic Conference this season. Dallas Beaver and Matthew Mika headline a deep returning pool of players, which includes fellow All-Conference selections Tyler Osik and Ray Alejo. The Black and Gold return 66-percent of its RBI total from a year ago, as the returners combined to hit .265 with an on-base percentage of .366.
OUT ON THE MOUND
The pitching staff will be a mix of old and new. Chris Williams is slated to be the lone returner to the starting rotation. After starting every weekend in 2018, the redshirt senior will be out for the opening two series.
Garrett Westberg and Jeffrey Hakanson will be key veteran figures out of the bullpen in 2019. The duo combined to strike out 57 batters over 38 2/3 innings last year, as both posted sub-.200 opponent batting averages out of the bullpen.
THE WEEKEND ROTATION
Schuermann will get the ball on Opening Knight for his first game in Orlando. The graduate transfer from Furman has more than 200 innings of experience and starting the previous two opening days for the Paladins.
Holloway will also be in his first game as a Knight on Saturday. After a freshman campaign as a weekend starter at High Point, the junior guided Chipola to the 2018 NJCAA World Series title. Righty Jordan Spicer is the lone returner in the opening rotation. The senior made six starts last year and posted a 3.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a starter.
• The Knights will face Siena for the 59th time. UCF owns a 54-4 advantage, making it the highest winning percentage the Black and Gold has in a series with more than 25 games.
• Friday will be the first game for the 17 newest members of the UCF team.
• Grant Schuermann will be the 18th different pitcher to start on Opening Knight over the last 19 seasons.
• First baseman Dallas Beaver was ranked 21st in DI Baseball’s first base power rankings, while Matthew Mika was tabbed 27th in the nation at second.
• Mika and Alejo are the top returning duo in the nation for stealing bases after combining for 61 in 2018.
• UCF has started strong on Opening Weekends with a 31-15 mark all-time on Opening Knight and an 82-33-1 mark in the opening series of the year.
• Head coach Greg Lovelady returns for his third season at UCF with a career record of 199-99.
• Lovelady was named D1Baseball’s Top Head Coach Under 40 back in December.
• UCF will debut a new kids zone behind the third base dugout with inflatables and games on Sunday.
• Jeremiah's will also be at John Euliano Park on Sunday.
• Better and more affordable options will be available at the concession stands.
• After making it's debut at Spectrum Stadium, The Citronaut (Fanta and ice cream) will be served on Saturday.
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