Knights earn No. 2 seed in Tallahassee Regionals
Published: Monday, May 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 16:06
There's a sign in the Knights' baseball dugout that reads "1430" — the amount of miles from Orlando to Omaha, Neb., the home of the College World Series.
The Knights are now a few miles closer.
On Monday, UCF reached its first of many season-long goals: to get to the NCAA Regionals. The Knights, whose last trip to the dance was in 2004, will travel to the Tallahassee Regional to join Florida State, Alabama and Bethune-Cookman in the field of 64 for the NCAA Championship.
"This means a lot to us," center fielder Ronnie Richardson said in a release. "We've worked so hard for this day. To know that we are only five wins away from Omaha means that this is just the beginning. Now we've got to go out and take care of business."
Head coach Terry Rooney, who helped guide LSU to the College World Series in 2008 as an associate coach, has been preaching the acronym "ORTO," or "On the Road to Omaha," to the team since he arrived on UCF's campus in 2008. Rooney has recruited back-to-back top-20 classes, with the 2010 class ranked No. 4 and the 2011 class ranked No. 20. He has encouraged his team to aim for the NCAA Tournament all season.
"We're excited to go to Tallahassee; there's no question about it," Rooney said in a release. "What a regional. What an unbelievable group of teams."
UCF is the No. 2 seed and will face No. 3 Alabama in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament on Friday at 12 p.m.
"When I scheduled that series with Florida State last year for our bye weekend, it was our hopes that we would go up there and put ourselves in position to get to a regional and provide an atmosphere that our kids would get used to," Rooney said. "And obviously when we played up there, it was a regional-type atmosphere."
The Knights have played all three teams this season, going 4-2. UCF took one of three from the Seminoles in Tallahassee. The Knights also swept Bethune-Cookman and beat the Crimson Tide 12-4 on February 27 in the South Alabama Classic.
"Although we've played the teams, you've got to go up there and take care of business, and we hopefully have the opportunity to play three outstanding teams," Rooney said.
Adkins has been UCF's No. 1 starter all season, but lately the lefty hasn't had his stuff. He didn't get a decision in last Wednesday's win against Memphis and he got the loss the week prior against Marshall. His last win was April 29 when the Knights beat Houston 6-4.
Junior transfer Winkler has bounced in, out and around the rotation since the beginning of the season, and while his 3-4 record may not suggest it, he's been one of the stronger starters in the weekend rotation. The righty has a team-high 86 strikeouts in 76-2/3 innings pitched, and on May 1, Winkler struck out a career-high 11 batters in a 5-0 loss to Houston. He struck out nine against Marshall on May 20 and didn't get a decision. If the Knights and the Seminoles both win their respective games on Friday, Winkler would be a good choice on the hill against top-seeded Florida State.
If the Knights aren't eliminated in their first two games and play a third, Bradford is the likely starter. The senior has a team-best 6-2 record, getting only his second loss last weekend against Rice in the Conference USA tournament.
What to Watch For
— Florida State should have no problem defeating Bethune-Cookman on Friday and the Knights have a good chance at taking Game 1 from Alabama, who is 33-26 this season so far (including three losses against Florida, a team UCF swept in two games).
— Should the Knights advance to the Super Regionals, they will play the winner of the College Station Regional (Texas A&M, Arizona, Seton Hall and Wright State) in a best-of-three series. The winners of the eight Super Regionals will reach the College World Series.