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Everywhere you look in the UCF starting lineup, it seems all you see is more returning players.

The outfield, it turns out, is no exception.

The outfield, especially defensively, was a strength for UCF last season, and if it keeps the same three returning starters, then it could be again this year.

However, there are a lot of strong offensive players waiting for their chance to break into the starting lineup.

"It's going to be a balance, this is what I think: although we have a bunch of players that started last year we have some more depth this year, so we can do different things," said UCF head coach Terry Rooney.

Let's look now at the outfield in part two of our UCF baseball season preview.

Left Field

Of all three outfield positions, left field has the least decided. UCF has a couple of options, they could either go defensive, with a player such as JoMarcos Woods. Or offensive, for which they have several options.

Woods started 53 games last season, and his strength was certainly his range on defense thanks to his natural speed.

Woods, however, hit only .237 on the year, but he counteracted that with a decent .351 OBP. He also led UCF with 20 sacrifices.

Woods is definitely the best defensive option for the Knights in left, but the plethora of offensive weapons they have will likely lead to fewer starts for him this season.

One such weapon is senior Sam Tolleson, who played in 38 games last year with 29 starts. He hit .286 with three home runs. One thing that will affect when Tolleson plays is the fact that he's right handed, while most other left field options for Rooney are left handed, so he's probably more likely to start when the Knights are facing a southpaw.

Left field might also see time from sophomore Matt Diorio. Diorio came to UCF last season as a catcher, but is more likely to find playing time as a DH or in the outfield. Rooney loves the offense that he brings, and will likely make room for him somewhere.

One other thing that might happen in left field is that James Vasquez, UCF's All-AAC first baseman from a year ago, might get some starts in the outfield.

This is because Rooney would like to get Tyler Hayden some time at first base this season, which would push Vazquez to the outfield.

At this point, with still a lot to be decided, my best guess would be Woods starts the majority of games, but fewer than a year ago, with those going to Tolleson with Diorio as the team's primary DH.

Center Field

There's a lot less confusion in center for UCF. The reason? Derrick Salberg.

Salberg is perhaps the fastest player on the team for UCF, plays fantastic defense and hit .310 on the year despite a late season slump.

He started 50 games last year for UCF, and would have likely started more if not for missing a couple weeks with an injury he suffered at Ole Miss.

Salberg hit second in the batting order for the bulk of last season, and this year is likely to again hit first or second. His speed and ability to bunt and put pressure on the defense was a positive for the Knights.

"We were a better team with him in the lineup there's no question, statistics show that," Rooney said.

Right Field

Right field also has a very likely starter at this point, Erik Barber, who, just like Woods and Salberg, has a lot of speed, which helps him play very good defense. Barber, however, also adds a very strong arm in right field.

Barber hit third in the order for the majority of the year for UCF, and he thrived there. He hit .284 with 41 RBI, six home runs and a .399 OBP on his way to an All-AAC selection.

"I think he's going to have even a better year offensively," Rooney said. "The one thing with Erik is that I would say one of his, if not his greatest quality is his consistency. Every night we knew what we were getting with Barber."

One of the only downsides to Barber's game is his propensity to strikeout. He led UCF in strikeouts last season, with 54 in 58 games.

"Of course you want the strikeouts to go down, you know there's a few guys on the team that had high strikeouts, but they also had some high offensive numbers … it's definitely a balance," Rooney said.

If Barber can cut down on his strikeouts, then it is likely that he will have a better offensive season like Rooney predicts. But even if he just maintains his pace from a year ago, he makes right field one of the strengths for UCF.

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

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