Road warriors: Knights building reputation as strong road team
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 10:04
Most teams struggle on the road in college baseball, affected by hostile crowds, travel fatigue and other rigors that come hand-in-hand with a long schedule.
Luckily for head coach Terry Rooney, his Knights aren’t most teams.
“To be honest with you, we have played great on the road for the last three or four years,” Rooney said, with significant emphasis on the word great.
Statistically, he’s right.
The Knights are 36-17 on the road the past three seasons, and the team has a higher win percentage in away games (.818) than at home (.786) this year.
UCF’s two road losses came to Florida (No. 1 in ratings percentage index) and Southern Miss (No. 93 in RPI). The team is 2-1 against top 60 RPI opponents on the road this season.
With a trip to New Orleans to face Tulane scheduled for this weekend, Rooney shared the secret for his squad’s success: mental preparation and scheduling a routine.
“When the guys go there, it’s a mentality. It’s a business trip,” Rooney said. “The only reason you’re there is to play baseball. You’re going to wake up, you’re going to eat breakfast, have a little bit of study hall and then you’re going to get your mind right and get ready to play.”
Senior second baseman Travis Shreve echoed his coach’s sentiments on the importance of mental preparation.
“We really try to lock in … knowing we have business to do,” Shreve said. “It’s not a vacation. We don’t go to places to have fun. We go there to take care of business.”
The Knights will look to take care of business this weekend as they are scheduled to face a Tulane ballclub that sits at fourth place in Conference USA and has wins over Southeastern Louisiana, Wichita State and Rice this season.
“I would say Tulane is playing their best baseball so far,” Rooney said. “Offensively, their numbers are great.”
The Green Wave are led offensively by their senior catcher Jeremy Schaffer, who is batting .340 with nine home runs and a .603 slugging percentage.
All eight of Tulane’s players who have started at least 25 games, including Schaffer, are batting above .300 this year.
The Green Wave leads all of C-USA with a .318 team batting average and are the only C-USA team to be batting above .300 as a unit.
Rooney has not yet decided on which three pitchers will start against the potent Tulane offense, but he can rest assured that the three starters he chose for the Southern Miss series – Brian Adkins, Chris Matulis and Ray Hanson – have a combined ERA of 3.05 this season.
“We are walking in there and expecting to win,” Rooney said.
Shreve still remembers last year’s series with Tulane in which the Knights lost two of three games at home.
“We have some business to take care of,” Shreve said. “We have to go back there and return the favor.”