Due to the NCAA’s common start date rule, the baseball season is getting underway a couple of weeks later this year, but opening day has nearly arrived. All nine C-USA baseball teams will be in action this Friday. Tulane will play its first games on campus since the 2006 NCAA Super Regional when it opens the brand-new Greer Field at Turchin Stadium against Illinois-Chicago. Two of C-USA’s nationally-ranked teams open with three-game series’ at ranked opponents, as No. 24 East Carolina visits No. 2 South Carolina and No. 3 Rice travels to No. 13 Long Beach State. Houston, Southern Miss, UAB and UCF each host weekend series.
FROM PRESS RELEASE
ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) – Just over four months after UCF’s 2007 season came to a close, the Knights officially began preparing for 2008 when fall camp opened at Jay Bergman Field Monday. The Black and Gold was greeted with windy conditions and a little bit of rain, as the Knights are hoping to have a few questions answered in the upcoming weeks.
“The weather was a little cooler than it was in the month of September, and the players were anxious to get on the field and start playing baseball,” said head coach Jay Bergman, who is starting his 26th season at the helm of the program. “They’ve been spending a lot of time lifting weights and doing some four-on-one stuff, but now we can get on the field as a team.
“The general attitude of the players has been very good all fall, and it was good the second half of last season. Our players have matured and are understanding the level of competition we are playing in. They are working hard to improve their skills so they will be able to compete at the Conference USA level.
“By the end of the month, I hope that we will have established ourselves defensively, and at least have found out that we have five, maybe six starting pitchers. Offensively we want to be able to move the runners and find out who is going to hit with runners in scoring position. So I think that is what we are looking for at the end of fall practice. If we can accomplish those things, then this fall will be very beneficial.”
Bergman’s squad went 27-32 in 2007 and 7-17 in its second season in C-USA. The Knights went 1-2 in the C-USA Championship, eliminating Houston May 24 in what was the first 1-0 win in league tournament history. For 2008, UCF returns all eight of its defensive starters, its top three starting pitchers and its closer. However, the Black and Gold lost its designated hitter (senior Matt Horwath – .336 BA) and two key setup men (senior Brian Brooks – UCF’s career record-holder in relief appearances with 82, senior Derek Abriola – ranks fifth in relief appearances with 62).
On Monday, UCF was working hard at moving runners from second base with less than two outs and did not seem to be having difficulties sending the ball to right field. Sophomore third baseman Chris Duffy, meanwhile, discovered a groove in batting practice, placing numerous line drives into the outfield grass.
In a short live-game session, the coaching staff got a look at LSU transfer Robert Lara behind the plate, and he immediately showed off his defensive tactics by backing up a wild throw to first base to keep the runner from going to second. The staff also got its first glimpse of junior-college transfer Colin Arnold, as the 47th-round MLB draft pick saw time in left field.
Team two completed their inning at the dish when senior catcher/first baseman Tim Russell drove in junior outfielder Chadd Hartman from second base on a single down the right-field line. With team one at the plate, junior first baseman Kiko Vazquez, senior second baseman Dwayne Bailey and junior shortstop Eric Kallstrom all ripped line drives to lead-off the inning. And Duffy sent a hard shot to the gap in right-center that would have been a double if the wind did not hold it up long enough for the outfield to get to it. On the bases, senior right fielder Ryan Richardson received a lot of praise for his work in breaking up a double play with a hard slide into second base. UCF coaches Craig Cozart and Bryan Peters did the pitching for the Knights.
UCF’s fall camp is scheduled to come to a close in early November.
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In the first game of “Elimination Friday” in the Conference USA baseball tournament, Memphis left no doubt as to who would be moving on and who would be heading home. The Tigers scored five runs in the first and four in the second and cruised to a 12-6 victory over Central Florida. Ben Grisham went the distance for Memphis, allowing only four earned runs and striking out five.
Joey Lieberman highlighted the first-inning UM attack, smacking a three-run shot over left field that crossed the street behind the stadium before stopping. Three Golden Knight errors aided Memphis’ efforts in the second inning. A pair of Tiger errors and a Dwayne Bailey triple helped UCF get on the board in the fourth, cutting the Memphis lead to 9-3.
Memphis will face Rice in a 9 a.m. EDT contest on Saturday. Central Florida finishes its season at 27-32.
Wes Musick went the distance for the Cougars in this elimination game, allowing only one run, six hits and striking out five. Unfortunately for him, UCF’s Jaager Good was better, allowing only four hits and no runs while striking out nine in his seven innings of work before turning it over to his bullpen. The Golden Knights sent the Cougars home in the elimination contest with a 1-0 decision.
Matt Horwath opened the home part of the sixth inning for UCF with a bunt for a single, and advanced to third thanks to the work of the next two Golden Knight batters. Kiko Vazquez brought Horwath home with a ground ball, and UCF had all the runs it would need to advance in the tournament.
UCF advances to a 3 p.m. Friday game against the loser of the Rice-Memphis contest later today. Houston ends its season with a 28-29 record.
Central Florida held a 3-2 lead in the middle of the fourth inning of its Conference USA Baseball Tournament game before top-seeded Rice came alive. The second-ranked Owls scored five in the bottom of the fourth and went on to claim a 16-6 decision in a game ended by the league’s 10-run rule. C-USA Freshman of the Year Ryan Berry improved to 10-2 on the mound with the win.
UCF appeared to be on its way out of the fourth without any damage; the Owls scored all five of their runs with two outs in the frame. Rice added four in the fifth and three in the sixth to claim its 19th straight victory.
The Golden Knights will face Houston in a 9 a.m. elimination contest that will begin Thursday’s action in the tournament. Rice will take on Memphis at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
Memphis 10, Arkansas State 5
JONESBORO, Ark. – Freshman Brennon Martin scattered 10 hits and struck out four in 6.1 innings of work and senior Adam Amar tied the Memphis’ all-time RBI record with a run-scoring single in the first inning, as the Tigers clinched their 30th win of the year in a 10-5 victory over Arkansas State Tuesday evening at Tomlinson Stadium. Amar’s RBI was his 170th and ties him with Chris Marable, who lettered at the U of M from 1986-89.
The win guarantees the Tigers’ fourth winning season since 1995. It also seals the program’s first back-to-back winning seasons since the 1994 and 1995 campaigns. Memphis is now 30-18 on the year and Arkansas State is 19-29. The evening also marked the official opening of Barton’s Baseball Deck at ASU’s Tomlinson Stadium.
The two squads will meet in the series finale on Wednesday at Nat Buring Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m.
Troy 20, UAB 15
TROY, Ala. - The UAB Blazers entered Tuesday’s game at Troy as one of only three teams in the nation to have more triples than home runs, but that all changed as the Blazers blasted a season-high six home runs, only to be outdone by the Trojans who out-slugged the Blazers for a 20-15 victory at Riddle-Pace Field. Junior first baseman Ryan Keedy had two home runs to highlight his 3-for-4 showing.
Troy improves to 30-20 with the win, while UAB is now 20-30 and has completed its non-conference schedule.
The Blazers will next be in action on Friday when they begin a three-game Conference USA series at Marshall at 6 p.m. Troy will close out its home schedule with a Sun Belt Conference series against New Orleans this weekend. First pitch Friday night is set for 6 p.m.
UCF 14, Stetson 3
DELAND, Fla. – Mitch Herold’s career-high nine strikeouts and the offense’s record-breaking eighth inning enabled the UCF baseball team to defeat Stetson, 14-3, Tuesday in DeLand, Fla. The Knights (24-26) sent 17 batters to the plate in the eighth vs. the Hatters (36-13), notching 10 hits and scoring 11 runs, the most runs ever in an eighth inning by a UCF offense.
The Conference USA schedule resumes this weekend as UCF wraps up its seven-game road trip at No. 30 East Carolina. First pitch of the three-game series is set for Friday at 7 p.m. Stetson travels to Nashville, Tenn. to face Lipscomb in an Atlantic Sun Conference series.
Citadel 8, No. 30 East Carolina 6
GREENVILLE, N.C. – Ryan Wood’s career night was not enough to help East Carolina, as the Pirates fell 8-6 to The Citadel Tuesday night in midweek action at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates will be back in action Wednesday night when the play host to No. 4 North Carolina. Jeff Ostrander will take the hill for ECU with a first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. (EDT). The Citadel will travel to Columbia, S.C. to face No. 7 South Carolina. First pitch is set for 8 p.m. EDT.
DALLAS - The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) released the Pro-Line Athletic National Player of the Week awards for the period ending April 29, today. UCF senior third baseman Matt Horwath was named National Hitter of the Week, while Tennessee sophomore lefthander James Adkins was named National Pitcher of the Week. The NCBWA Board reviews candidates from each Division I conferences each week and names winners each Tuesday throughout the season.
Horwath, the Knights leadoff hitter, had one of the best offensive weeks in UCF history. In four games, he went 11-for-16 for a .688 average, scored eight runs, drove in three, stole a base and had four doubles, a home run and his first two triples of his career. The senior scored twice and had at least two hits in all four games to help the Knights go 4-0 on the week, including a three-game sweep of Tulane, its first-ever sweep of a C-USA series. In Friday night's series opener against Tulane he hit for UCF's first-ever cycle. Horwath was hit by a pitch in the first, singled in the third, tripled in the fourth and homered to lead-off the seventh. He came to the plate with the score tied at 6-6 in the eighth and delivered with a RBI double to complete the cycle and also give UCF a 7-6 win.
Adkins broke the Tennessee school record for strikeouts during a complete-game win at LSU last Friday in which he allowed just three hits and struck out 14 batters. The preseason All-America selection got Jason Lewis to strikeout looking in the bottom of the sixth inning to break former big-leaguer and Vol great R.A. Dickey's school record of 345 strikeouts from 1994-96. Adkins now boasts 350 Ks for his career and has 103 on the season. A junior from Mt. Juliet, Tenn., Adkins needed just three pitches for six of his 14 Ks Friday. He allowed only one run while notching his sixth career complete game and his second of 2007.
With this week's honor, Adkins automatically are named to the watch list for Roger Clemens Award, given to the national collegiate pitcher of the year, sponsored by the Greater Houston Baseball Organization.
Fort Worth-based Pro-Line Athletic supplies the official cap to more than 100 Division I college teams and official uniforms and team wear to six Division 1 college teams. This is the third season Pro-Line has sponsored the NCBWA's Players of the Week. The sponsorship provides for plaques to be awarded to each of the weekly winners and other promotional consideration. For more information about Pro-Line, visit their Website at: www.prolineathletic.com .
The city of Houston broke out the brooms this weekend, as Rice and Houston both swept Conference USA series. The two schools are now 1-2 in the C-USA standings. Marshall also broke into the league win column in convincing fashion over the weekend.
GAINESVILLE – Sophomore right-hander Kyle Sweat tossed eight shutout innings as UCF (18-19) upended Florida (20-16), 6-2, on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville. Sweat (3-2) retired the final 10 Gators he faced and did not surrender a hit after the fourth inning in matching the longest outing of his career. His teammates backed him with a 14-hit offensive attack, led by junior Dwayne Bailey (3-for-4). UF plated two runs in the ninth and had the potential tying run at the plate to close the contest.
Tyson Auer’s two-run single in the third inning kept UCF’s longest hitting streak of the season alive. Auer pushed it to 12 games by going 2-for-5 and also swiped his team-best 17th base vs. the Gators.
The Gators return to SEC action on Friday night when they face No. 9 Arkansas (25-10) in the opener of a weekend series at 8:05 p.m. in Fayetteville. Each team has an 8-4 mark in league play, with Florida leading the East and the Hogs on top in West. To celebrate the upcoming bye weekend in Conference USA play, UCF will host its annual UCF Baseball Golf Classic Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Shingle Creek Golf Club.