UCF baseball will take its talents to Coral Gables for the regional round of the NCAA Tournament
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 16:05
When the UCF Knights gathered at the Moat Sports Grille on Monday to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, they may not have expected the gift they would receive.
Instead of having to go through Florida or FSU in the regional round of play, who UCF went a combined 0-3 against, the Knights would instead travel south to play in the Coral Gables Regional, hosted by Miami.
UCF split its regular season with the Canes, and Miami is regarded by some as the weakest of the No. 1 seeds in the tournament’s opening round.
That said, the stage is now set as best it could be for a Knights ballclub that fell short of hosting but nonetheless has aspirations of making it to Omaha, Neb.
The road to Omaha may have started figuratively during offseason conditioning, but it starts in earnest Friday at 2 p.m., when the Knights take on Missouri State at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables.
To help fans prepare for this exciting weekend of baseball, we at the Future have prepared a guide for all things regionals, including background on who UCF will have to beat and what to know if you decide to take your talents south with the team.
No. 2 seed: UCF Knights (43-15)
Manager: Terry Rooney (4th year)
Location: Orlando, Fla.
The Knights can get production from a variety of places in their lineup, anywhere from star first baseman D.J. Hicks to short but powerful and speedy center fielder Ronnie Richardson. While UCF has shown it can go quite cold for games at a time, the Knights are batting nearly .300 as a team (.294).
The UCF pitching staff has shown some improvements in the 2012 campaign but nevertheless is perhaps the Knights’ greatest liability. Rooney’s staff has compiled a 3.33 ERA. The Knights do have one of the best closers in the nation in Joe Rogers.
UCF clearly cannot overlook any of the teams, but as far as regionals go, this is the best draw it could have hoped for.
No. 1 seed: Miami Hurricanes (36-21)
Manager: Jim Morris (19th year)
Location: Coral Gables, Fla.
Atlantic Coast Conference
All-American Peter O’Brien is the player to watch for Miami as the catcher/first baseman is hitting a team-best .338.
As a team, the Hurricanes are batting .261, and Stephen Perez leads the team with 16 stolen bases.
As a whole, Miami’s pitching staff has 2.92 ERA, and Eric Erickson leads the staff with an 8-5 record.
The Hurricanes are one of the weakest, if not the weakest, regional host.
UCF has beat Miami on the road already this season and should be thankful it will get another shot at the Hurricanes, as opposed to the traveling north to face off against the Gators or Seminoles.
No. 4 seed: Stony Brook Seawolves (46-11)
Manager: Matt Senk (22nd year)
Location: Stony Brook, N.Y.
America East Conference
Stony Brook has a .337 team batting average with Travis Jankowski (.411) and Maxx Tissenbaum (.400) each hitting at least .400. Meanwhile, William Carmona leads the team in the power department with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs.
The Seawolves’ pitching staff claims a 2.87 ERA with opponents hitting just .240. Tyler Johnson has a 9-1 record with a 1.78 ERA. The stellar pitching has helped Stony Brook claim the best winning percentage in Division I baseball.
Despite having the best winning percentage in Division I and being on an 11-game winning streak, it’s hard to believe that the Seawolves’ schedule has adequately prepared them for this stage.
No. 3 seed: Missouri State Bears (39-20)
Manager: Keith Guttin (30th year)
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Missouri Valley Conference
Senior Kevin Medrano leads the way for the Bears at the plate. Medrano is batting .328 with 23 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. Keenen Maddox also makes plenty of noise for Missouri State, hitting .310 and belting seven home runs so far in 2012.
The Bears have been impressive on the mound with a 2.51 team ERA to rank second in the country. The staff is led by last year’s Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, righty Nick Petree, who has a 0.92 ERA with a 10-3 record and 109 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings. Closer Tyler Burgess has 11 saves and a 1.63 ERA.
The Bears have had an impressive season but have struggled of late, losing six of their last 11.