One of the top fielding coaches in the country, Jeff Palumbo is in his third season with the UCF baseball program. He provides his skills primarily with the UCF defense, but also assists with the hitters and the program's recruiting efforts.
And his tireless journey into helping head coach Terry Rooney and associate head coach Cliff Godwin put together the 2010 recruiting class paid off. The staff's first UCF class would be No. 4 in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's national poll, while it also would come in at No. 10 in the Baseball America poll. Those rankings were the highest in UCF baseball history.
The accolades continued to pour in, as after the 2010 season UCF's recruiting class for the 2011 campaign was ranked No. 20 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Backed by those stellar recruiting classes, UCF made its return to the NCAA Tournament in 2011 for the first time since 2004. The Knights' 39-23 record was its best dating back to the 2005 campaign, and they amassed a school record 12 C-USA victories.
A huge reason the Black and Gold was able to return to the dance was due to its defense. In 2011, UCF smashed its single-season record with a .978 fielding percentage (previous record was .973), recording only 53 errors in 62 games.
Even more jaw-dropping was a stretch where UCF did not commit an error in eight-straight games from May 6-17, including not having a miscue in all three games at Florida State and again in a series at UAB. With the defense owning the field, UCF went on to post two victories each over Florida, Stetson and Rice as well as wins against FSU and Alabama.
The newcomers certainly played a major factor in guiding UCF to a 33-22 record in 2010 as well. The Knights were the only team in the country to have five freshmen make at least 35 starts in the batting order, and Palumbo faced the challenge of having three of them on the infield. But under his tutelage, the Black and Gold put together a .963 fielding percentage, and it also turned a school-record 61 double plays in the regular season, which placed UCF among the top-10 clubs in the country for turning two.
At the plate, the Knights ripped apart the record books as they set school and Conference USA records with a .343 batting average and a .435 on-base percentage. UCF also broke the program marks with 78 homers and a .538 slugging percentage. In all, it ranked in the NCAA top-30 in the regular season in average, runs, hits, doubles, homers and slugging.
Individually, Chris Duffy, a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, also set UCF and C-USA records with a .447 batting average while he joined Shane Brown (.428) as the first duo to hit at least .400 in the same season in league history. The pair was honored with Louisville Slugger All-American and All-C-USA First Team accolades, and they both would be drafted in the top 26 rounds of the 2010 MLB Draft.
Meanwhile, freshman Chris Taladay received the prestigious C-USA Freshman of the Year award, while he joined Ryan Breen as Louisville Slugger Freshman All-Americans.
The Knights' lineup in 2009 featured 11 players with at least two home runs on a team that hit 68 dingers. It also was highlighted by four starters who had fielding percentages of .976 or better.
Meanwhile, four position players racked up C-USA postseason honors with Brandon Romans and Shane Brown voted onto the second team, and Beau Taylor and D.J. Hicks earning spots on the freshman team.
Palumbo spent three seasons at George Mason where he was the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach, as well as the leader of the infield defense. The Patriots went 30-25 in 2008 and had a .311 team batting average with 63 homers and a .970 fielding percentage.
Serving under 2008 Colonial Athletic Association Co-Head Coach of the Year Bill Brown, Palumbo guided Scott Krieger and Justin Bour to All-CAA postseason honors in 2008. It was the third-straight year Krieger (.381, 21 HR, 60 RBI) was named to a postseason team, while Bour (.398, 15 HR, 65 RBI) earned a spot after serving as a member of the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team in 2007.
Krieger eventually broke Mason's career home-run record with 49 in three campaigns, and went on to be selected to the ABCA All-East Region First Team. In 2007, Palumbo helped sluggers Chris Fournier and Jason Bour get taken in the MLB Draft.
Palumbo did not travel far for his first coaching gig as he was one of George Mason's all-time leading hitters from 2001-04. He left the school holding the career records in hits (283), at-bats (865), games played (218) and games started (217). Palumbo also ranked in the top 10 in runs, stolen bases, total bases, RBI and walks.
The two-time CAA Defensive Player of the Year was the league's Student-Athlete of the Year and George Mason's Male Student-Athlete of the Year during his senior season. That year, he led the nation in runs scored per game with a 1.4 average and held a .402 batting average, lifting the Patriots to an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament. He later would be drafted in the 15th round by the San Francisco Giants.
His efforts with George Mason eventually led Palumbo to be named to the CAA Silver Anniversary Team, which was announced in 2010. The squad featured 10 CAA Players of the Year, 17 All-Americans and 11 former or current Major League Baseball players.
Palumbo and his wife, Sarah, were married in December of 2009.