Feb. 8, 2010
By Brian Ormiston
ORLANDO (UCFAthletics.com) - With Feb. 19 rapidly approaching, UCFAthletics.com sat down with head baseball coach Terry Rooney for a very detailed season preview as we start to look forward to Opening Day. Check back throughout the week for a breakdown of each position on the field.
Part One - Initial Outlook and Starting Pitchers
Combining UCF's performance late in the 2009 season with the talent level of the 2010 squad, this year has enormous potential to be a breakthrough campaign for the Knights. And it is not just the coaches who feel it, but the players and fans embrace that fact as well.
UCF went 10-8 in its final 18 games of the 2009 regular season, including a win at No. 2 Rice and Conference USA series victories against UAB and Houston. The Knights' pitching staff, meanwhile, posted an ERA of 3.92 in its last nine contests.
And with MLB draft picks at seven of the nine positions on the field for the upcoming season, second-year head coach Terry Rooney hopes to use some of that momentum from last year's finish to spark an exciting beginning to 2010.
"One of the things that I'm very proud of last year is that we got better as the season went along," said Rooney. "And I told our team that we will be better in March than February, and better in April than March and so on. Pitching was certainly proof of that. The last third of the year we pitched extremely well.
"And now we have some returning pitchers who understand a little bit more of what we are trying to do on the mound, and incoming pitchers who have a lot of talent. So hopefully the combination of talent and the system we have in place equals success.
"Our lineup meanwhile is much more balanced this year than we were in 2009. We are going to have several players such as Darnell Sweeney, Ronnie Richardson and Shane Brown at the top and bottom of the lineup who will have the opportunity to steal bases. Although he's not the fastest runner, I believe Shane is one of the best baserunners in Conference USA. We have numerous players who can create opportunities, and last year we weren't really able to do that since we were somewhat one-dimensional as an offense. But this season we've got six of nine starters who could very well hit double-digit home runs mixed in with that speed.
"At the end of the day, offensively I want to have an aggressive, physical team. We need to be offensive and drive the ball out of the ballpark, while having a core of athleticism that will allow us to create opportunities. That will always be the style of play as long as I'm the coach here."
With 32 pitchers in his career being selected in the MLB Draft, Rooney understands what is needed on the mound. And with the entire 2009 UCF weekend rotation being seniors, the Knights plunged into the junior college ranks for 2010.
Possible Starting Pitchers
Brian Adkins - Fr. - LHP - University High School's career-record holder with 23 wins
Alex Besaw - Jr. - RHP - 2009 32nd round draft pick by Tampa Bay
Nick Cicio - Jr. - LHP - 2009 NJCAA Division II First Team All-American
Owen Dew - Jr. - RHP - 2009 33rd round draft pick by Los Angeles (AL)
Brennan Dobbins - Jr. - RHP - 1-1, 12.60 ERA, 25.0 IP, 23 K
Johnny Sedlock - Jr. - LHP - Fall 2008 JUCO All-Star Team
"We signed a lot of junior college pitchers this past year to make an immediate impact for us," admitted Rooney. "And I think as we enter our preseason, those pitchers will play an enormous role. There's certainly three pitchers going into the season that could lead the front of our rotation, and they are Alex Besaw, Owen Dew and Johnny Sedlock. I also believe a pair of left-handers in freshman Brian Adkins and transfer Nick Cicio have a very good chance of fulfilling one of those roles along with returner Brennan Dobbins, who is a returning pitcher who has a good chance as well.
"Besaw and Dew were both draft picks last year and recruited here to pitch substantial innings. That's why we signed them, so they could come in for at least one year and have the opportunity to pitch at the front end of our rotation. They are power-arm, right-handed pitchers who have different styles but still throw in the upper 80s and low 90s.
"Johnny Sedlock had the best fall of any pitcher we have on the staff. He is a left-handed pitcher from South Florida Community College who throws in the low 80s. But he's a guy who is the epitome of a pitch-ability lefty. Brian Adkins has advanced beyond his years pitching-wise and he performed very well for us in the fall. Nick Cicio was a JUCO All-American with outstanding command, and we feel confident that it will lead to similar success at this level. Brennan Dobbins really got better and had a good summer in the Coastal Plains League. So those are guys that you could look to at the beginning of the season to be in the rotation."