The Leadoff: Outfield Preview

Feb. 9, 2014

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By Bryan Levine

Feb. 9 - Outfield

The outfield situation is as wide open as any other position on the field, so The Leadoff is ready to dive right into it in today’s update.

Be sure to remember this name; Derrick Salberg. He will be a major factor for the Knights this season. Whether we see Salberg in center or right field, he’ll be in the lineup, and more than likely be the leadoff hitter.

“Derrick Salberg has made as big of strides as anybody on our team,” head coach Terry Rooney said. “He’s the fastest person on our team, and he’s someone who’s competing to play centerfield for us. I think he and JoMarcos Woods will split time between center and right field. Whoever doesn’t play one will play the other.”

Woods, 2013’s regular centerfielder, has emerged as one of the leaders on this team and like fellow third-year player James Vasquez, will play a huge role both on and off the field. He’s one of the returning players Rooney expects to improve this year.

“JoJo is what you call a “gamer” in baseball,” Rooney said. “He needs to hit better. He only he .245 last year, and he’s got to continue to work the short game.”

In the opposite corner of the outfield, UCF’s lone senior, Bret Gordon, probably has one of the best story lines on the UCF roster. Gordon was a walk-on last year, who didn’t get much playing time in the beginning of the season. About halfway through the year, Gordon got a few opportunities and hit so well that Rooney had no choice but to start him.

Gordon ended his first year with a .316 average in 98 at-bats, and he’s the only returning player to hit above .300 a season ago. Though he saw a majority of his play on the infield at second base last year, he’s being moved to the outfield this season.

“I think Bret Gordon has the inside track for left field. Obviously if he hits anything like he did last year he’s going to play every day,” Rooney said. “He went from a walk on to being a preseason All-Conference player less than 12 months later. There’s nothing flashy about what Bret does. He’s just a great hitter. He has a great approach, I just think he’s better suited for the outfield.”

Rooney also says he expects to use Gordon as a designated hitter from time to time, which would free up a corner outfield spot for another player to seize.

Erik Barber, Matt Diorio and Sam Tolleson are all players who could play in left field or work as the DH when Gordon isn’t at one of those spots.

Now in his junior year with UCF, Barber is someone who could potentially see major playing time if he seizes his opportunities. He has great defensive range, and shows some flashes of power.

“Erik Barber has had a very good preseason for us,” Rooney said. “He’s already hit a few home runs for us here in the last couple weeks.”

The two others vying for the left field and DH spots, Diorio and Tolleson, are both newcomers. Diorio, the first non-Florida based freshman brought in during Rooney’s six-year tenure, and Tolleson, a junior college transfer from Cypress College by way of Texas, are competing with Barber and Gordon for the final two spots.

Similar to the way Chad Whiteaker and Kam Gellinger could split time at third base (see yesterday’s preview), Diorio, a lefty, and Tolleson, a righty, might be played in certain situations depending on matchups.

Six guys for three positions is a pretty good problem to have. It speaks to the depth on the UCF roster this season. Look for someone to make a splash early in the season and emerge as the front-runner to be the regular starter in left field.

Check back tomorrow as we continue our daily positions previews as The Leadoff heads behind the plate to breakdown the catching depth chart.

UCF baseball insider Bryan Levine is proud to bring you his all-new blog, The Leadoff. This blog is dedicated to giving Knights fans an inside look at the UCF baseball program. Levine, who recently began his second season working with UCF baseball audio broadcasts, will offer his unique perspectives on "Orlando's Baseball Team" with multiple updates throughout each week of the season.



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