Baseball faces early test tonight in Gainesville
No. 19 Knights to take on No. 1 Gators
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 09:02
UCF (3-0) will be putting its undefeated record to the test Wednesday when it goes to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators (2-1), the nation's top ranked team by Baseball America.
The Knights were bumped up to No. 19 in the poll and the Gators remained No. 1 after opening weekend, setting up an in-state, top-20 showdown early in the season. The game will be aired on Fox Sports Florida starting at 7 p.m.
"We're excited about playing the University of Florida. … It's one of 56 games, obviously, but the significance of [the] game is that you are playing the No. 1 ranked team in the country and sometimes you just don't have that opportunity in any sport," head coach Terry Rooney said. "It's a great opportunity for us to play the No. 1 team in the country and it's a great game for college baseball. You have two teams ranked in the top-20 in the country, so we're looking forward to a great ballgame."
Rooney announced that Matt Collins, a senior out of DeLand, Fla., will be starting for the Knights. Collins will face Jonathan Crawford, a sophomore who pitched 3.2 innings in relief for the Gators last year.
Florida has a highly-touted lineup this season. Three Gators were selected as preseason first-team All-Americans by Baseball America and five players were selected to the second-team.
The Gators took two out of three games against Cal State Fullerton opening weekend, knocking Fullerton (formerly No. 16) out of the rankings.
"I don't look at it as a measuring stick [for the team]. The measuring stick is we just have to keep playing the game ourselves and get better each day," Rooney said. "In the game of baseball anything can happen on any given night. The most important thing for me is that we play fundamentally sound, that's the thing we have to make sure we do on a daily basis."
The two teams met twice last season, once in Gainesville and once in Orlando. The Knights won both games, the first 4-3 and the second 8-6.
Many of UCF's returning players have experience against the Gators. Junior shortstop Darnell Sweeney hit a game-clinching two-run double in the ninth inning in Gainesville and junior utility player Chris Taladay led the team with three RBIs in the team's win at home.
"Tomorrow night is going to be a big night for us," Taladay said. "They're going to be coming after us after last year."