2023 Position Preview: Infielders and Catchers

Four Knights are set to return to the infield in 2022, including redshirt senior Tom Josten and sophomore Ryan Taylor. Nick Romano and Andrew Brait come back to the lineup after missing most of last season due to injury.

Last year, the talented group of infielders helped propel UCF to the top of many offensive categories in the American Athletic Conference boasting the team-leading .289 batting average, and ranking among the top-three in multiple categories including runs (413, second), hits (584, third), triples (16, first), home runs (74, third) and stolen bases (103, first).

Alex Freeland and Noah Orlando mark two notable departures in the infield, leaving big roles to fill for the returners and newcomers.

Freeland was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third round at pick 105, one of the highest picks in program history. Despite missing games due to injury, he ended the season slashing .282/.419/.570 with three multi-home run games, accumulating the second-most home runs on the team with 11.  

Orlando leaves the Knights as a graduate, following a breakout senior season in which he increased all of his numbers. Slugging eight home runs and slashing .322/.427/.531, he was top three in all those categories among qualifying batters and calls for his role as a consistent offensive threat to be filled.

Josten will enter his fourth year as a Knight, adding experience and leadership to his strong locker room presence. Last season, he recorded the second-most RBI on the team with 42 and tallied the most combined sacrifices on the team. He continues to improve his numbers, recording his highest batting average in his most recent season with a .286 average and looks to resume his upward climb in his final season with UCF. Josten was ranked No. 43 on D1 Baseball's Top 50 Second Basemen.

Taylor appeared as an infielder and pinch hitter during his freshman year at UCF. His best performance last season came against rival South Florida, where he went 2-3 with a run, an RBI and a stolen base. Recording 14 runs and 26 total bases, Taylor looks to build up his resume in his return to the field for his sophomore season.

Romano missed time last year due to an ACL injury early in the season. In his 12 games, all of which he started, he posed a dangerous offensive threat, posting a .366/.480/.707 slash line and tallying 11 extra-base hits including three home runs. Romano looks to make an impactful return to first base for his fourth year as a Knight.

Brait is also returning for his fourth season with UCF after an injury limited him to four games last season. Making his first appearance against Cincinnati in the final series of the regular season, he wasted no time making his presence felt, recording a double in his first game back. Brait is a fast, experienced member of the Knights infield expected to make an immediate impact in the lineup.
Two talented freshmen join the infield, both making noise in the fall for the Knights.

Drew Faurot had a big senior season for Florida High School, hitting .405 and slugging five home runs. He was named All-Big Bend First Team and received a Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Team Selection. Faurot is ranked No. 82 on Perfect Game's top 500 incoming freshmen and enters the infield as a newcomer with plenty of promise.

Greg Pettay joins the Knights as an alumnus of The First Academy, following a senior season in which he hit .437. The Central Florida native was named in the top 250 incoming freshmen by Perfect Game.
Ben McCabe was a consistent offensive force for the Knights last season, starting 58 games and putting up the best numbers of his career including 43 runs, 11 doubles, a team-high 14 home runs, and 12 stolen bags. Making most of his starts last year at first base due to injury, the fifth-year senior will return looking to bring his experience and leadership behind the plate for his final season as a Knight. He was ranked among the top catchers in the nation by D1 Baseball, checking in at No. 21 ahead of this season.

Cole Russo looks to expand on his freshman numbers entering his second season. With 40 games and 22 starts under his belt, he recorded 13 RBI and two home runs. Russo brings a commanding presence full of energy to the locker room and is set to take on his sophomore season as a backstop.

Andrew Sundean returns to the Knights roster after an impressive freshman season, slashing .348/.429/.556 with five home runs and 33 RBI. He struck out only 16 times in 135 at bats and owned a top-five fielding percentage on the team at .993, recording 257 putouts and 24 assists.

Riley Parker joins the Knights as a catcher from The First Academy where he hit .386 with 28 RBI, 10 doubles, and three home runs his senior season. He received an invitation to the CURE Senior All-Star Game and joined The First Academy in the National High School Invitational. He also won a Florida State Championship with the team in 2021.

Keano Suarez joins the team as a walk-on, previously playing for UCF's club baseball team. The Apopka native was a 3-year letter winner at Lake Brantley High School.

Knights baseball begins its 50th campaign in the season opener against the Siena Saints at 6 p.m. on Feb. 17 at John Euliano Park. This series will mark the 10th time the Knights open their season against the Saints. Opening weekend will continue with matchups at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 and 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19.