After losing 13 seniors, most collegiate programs would be left in a bind to find a sense of identity heading into the future.
Thanks to UCF’s batch of incoming junior transfer players, head coach Terry Rooney believes the Knights will be able to maintain the high level of play to which they have become accustomed.
“In the recruiting class we have brought in, because we have lost so many kids, it is a balance of junior college and high school so it is not all freshmen,” Rooney said. “You try to bring junior college kids in to make an immediate impact. I feel like they have pushed our returning players, but I feel like a majority of our returning players have also have gotten better.”
At the pinnacle of the 2014-15 season, UCF was ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation. The Knights finished the season with a record of 31-27. At home, UCF was a force to be reckoned with, going 23-9 at Jay Bergman Field.
“I was proud of what we accomplished last year,” Rooney said. “We had the highest ranking in the history of the program at sixth in the country and we did some really good things.”
However, after two heartbreaking losses in the American Conference Championship tournament on walk-off hits by their opponents last season, UCF was left with a sour taste leaving 2015.
Instead of dwelling on last season, the Knights are looking to improve upon their accomplishments in the 2015-16 season.
“It’s a new season, so even though we did not finish how we wanted to, the coaches have put us in a position to become what we were last year and maybe even better, and finish stronger than we did last year,” junior catcher Matt Diorio said. “It’s a slightly new [pitching] staff, a lot of junior college guys, but they are working real hard and they are doing a great job.”
Along with Diorio, other key players returning to the diamond for the Knights include infielders, redshirt senior Sam Tolleson, junior Kam Gellinger and sophomore catcher Logan Heiser.
On the mound, sophomore right-handed pitcher Cre Finfrock, redshirt senior left-handed pitcher Harrison Hukari, junior right-handed pitcher Trent Thompson and junior right-handed pitcher Robby Howell look to dominate the batters box and help lead their team to another great season.
Along with the new faces on the playing roster, there have also been additions to the baseball staff.
“To bring back Brandon Romans and Ryan Breen, these are two guys that played for me,” Rooney said. “I am really excited about the staff. There is certainly a comfort level with a bunch of guys that have been around and know what I expect every day.”
The Knights look to forge their way to the top of the college baseball world in this season’s effort. Players who can be expected to aid that mission include new infielder 2015 NJCAA Division I National Defensive Player of the Year Brennan Bozeman, RHP Campbell Scholl, outfielder Luke Hamblin and RHP relief pitcher Nick McCoy.
The UCF baseball team is set to open its season Feb. 19 at Jay Bergman Field, hosting Siena at 6:30 p.m.
Matthew Saunders is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @ClassicSmit or email him at MatthewS@CentralFloridaFuture.com