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It's a new spring semester, which only means one thing for the UCF baseball team: It's time to get back to work.

Opening Knight is on Feb. 13, less than a month away, and UCF has already started its spring workouts. Players started workouts with small positional groups Monday. On Jan. 23, they have their first full-team practice of the new year, exactly three weeks before Opening Knight.

"Really [for] the first two weeks of school we're just trying to get back into baseball shape, as many reps as we can of the basics of baseball — ground balls, batting practice and pitching wise. We're just trying to get the pitch counts up of everybody," said UCF head coach Terry Rooney.

After those first two weeks, when the team finally does have their first full-team practice, there won't be any time to lose; they'll immediately get into taking live batting practice, scrimmaging and treating that first weekend as if it were a real in-season weekend.

"I try to really duplicate or replicate as much as possible [each] game week," Rooney said. "We'll scrimmage and play Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday just like we will in the spring."

Preparing for the 2015 season didn't start with spring classes, though. The Knights met for team meetings as early as August of last year.

As well as working on baseball, UCF also works to improve camaraderie in the fall through wiffle ball games and doing community work with the Children's Miracle Network.

The team also holds a contest every fall that it calls the Knights Challenge, which is an obstacle course around the UCF sports facilities, ending on the baseball field. This year outfielder Sam Tolleson won it all.

Rooney hopes that doing things such as this, off and on the field, will help players realize what they're a part of.

"All of those things are made to try and do that, for everybody to understand that it's going to take all 35 players to help us win," Rooney said.

Last season, UCF finished 36-23, but ended the season on a very disappointing note, being named one of the "last four out" of the NCAA Tournament by the NCAA selection committee.

This year, the Knights aren't taking any games lightly, knowing how close they were last year. There's a very good chance that if they would have won just one more game they would have made it to the postseason.

"If there is a slogan of our team, it's 'everything matters,'" Rooney said. "We've talked about that since we got back last year in the fall, [at the] first team meeting in August."

UCF is returning all eight starting position players from last year, and a good portion of its pitching staff. The players know how close they were last year, and feel that this year they have a chance of being very good.

Many of them are seniors and they're buying into their chances to make some noise in the college baseball world.

"We've got to learn from [last season]," Rooney said. "We've got to learn that no matter who you're playing in the 56 regular season games you've got to have the same mental approach every single night."

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Colin Bell is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him colinb@knights.ucf.edu.

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