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Everything You Need to Know About UCF Baseball for 2020

Knights welcome a ton of newcomers

Baseball Photo: Brian Murphy

The UCF Knights baseball team enters its fourth year under Greg Lovelady sporting a nearly entirely new look - not in terms of uniforms, but rather of those wearing them. Only four position players and a handful of pitchers return from last year’s squad that valiantly tfought off a stunning series of catastrophic pitching injuries to get to The American’s tournament semifinal Saturday, only to come up short against a Cincinnati squad that eventually won it.

A host of graduations and transfers in the offseason has led to a nearly brand-new roster for head coach Greg Lovelady, who said to us in our season preview podcast that this teams’ biggest strength this year will be its depth - something that was missing all of last year.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Knights for 2020:

Last Year

36-22, 11-13 in The American (6th place). The Knights suffered a slew of key injuries to their pitching staff last season and still managed to crank out 35 wins for the third straight year under Greg Lovelady. Despite a 4-8 start to conference play, UCF rebounded to win seven of its last eight, including a wild 11-10 11-inning thriller on the last night of the season against Houston to secure their spot in the conference tournament in a year that saw just three wins separate the #2 and #7 seeds in Clearwater:

UCF lost in their first game in Clearwater to Tulane but rebounded with a thrilling comeback over Memphis:

That and a return of the favor over Tulane put UCF in Semifinal Saturday, but they could not get past the Bearcats, who ended UCF’s season before dumping 22 runs on UConn the next day to take the title.

A final RPI of 47, three spots behind the last at-large team in (Duke), was just barely not enough to get the Knights into the NCAAs.

This Year

Picked 5th in The American by the coaches

UCF is expected to be near where they ended last year. ECU is the favorite, with Houston nipping at their heels:

Who’s in Charge

Greg Lovelady

It’s already Year #4 for Greg Lovelady, and he finally has a roster complete with guys he recruited. He enters the season with a 111-65 record at UCF (235-121 overall).

Listen to Coach Lovelady preview the team on our Baseball Preview Podcast:

Who to Watch

OF Dalton Wingo

WIngo is the only player back from last season’s team who played in all 58 games. The junior from Plant City rebounded from a difficult freshman campaign (.179 in 34 games) to finsh 5th on the team in hitting (.294) and 2nd in RBI (44). He was the only Knight named to The American’s preseason all-conference team

SP Trevor Holloway

Holloway’s promising 2019 (2-0, 2.03 ERA, 29 K/15 BB in 26.2 IP, 6 starts) was cut short due to an injury against ECU in the opening conference series. He obtained a medical redshirt and is expected to be a key cog in the Knights’ rotation once again.

Who We’ll Miss

2B Matthew Mika

Mika finished his UCF career as the team’s leader in hits and steals. He was drafted by the Bewers and hit .258 in the Arizona Fall League.

SP Jordan Spicer

Spicer’s up-and-down career at UCF ended with an emotional performance in Clearwater, as he threw a complete-game gem to push the Knights into the semis in his final outing as a Knight:

He was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 24th round and finished last year with their A-ball team in Boise.

Who’s on the Roster

A lot of new guys. UCF returns just four players who saw action last year, only one of whom - Dalton Wingo - played in all 58 games last year as a regular.

UCF Baseball 2020 Projected Lineup

Pos # Name Year 2019
Pos # Name Year 2019
C 40 Ben McCabe So. .274, 2 HR, 17 RBI .368 OBP in 39 games
1B 17 Nick Romano Jr. .348, 10 HR, 57 RBI at St. Johns River State College
2B 6 Tom Josten So. .308, 11 HR, 33 RBI at Marshalltown CC
3B 2 Matt Archer Fr. First-team All-American & Broward Co. Player of the Year as HS Senior
SS 21 Noah Orlando Jr. Edgewater HS product hit .318 at Palm Beach State College
LF 34 Jordan Rathbone Sr. 4/21, 1 RBI, .320 OBP in 11 games (3 starts)
CF 27 Gephry Pena So. 1/11, 6 R, mostly as pinch runner in 30 games
RF 8 Dalton Wingo Jr. .294, 7 HR, 44 RBI, .373 OBP, only returner to start all 58 games
DH 44 Josh Crouch Jr. .290, 12 HR, 65 RBI in two seasons at State College of Florida
C 7 Jakob Runnels Fr. Hit .510 as senior at Auburndale HS
1B 39 Connor Allen So. Redshirted after transferring from Miami
SS 26 Andrew Brait Fr. .508 OBP as senior at Viera HS
INF 13 JJ Gonzalez Fr. .397 hitter as senior at Plant City HS
UTIL 29 Pablo Ruiz Fr. Palm Beach Co. and Sun-Sentinel Player of the Year (.563, .670 OBP) at Forest Hill HS
UTIL 32 Ben Rushing Fr. .312 hitter as senior at Cypress Bay HS
UTIL 5 Trent Taylor Jr. .304 hitter in two years at Daytona State
Newcomers in italics, projected starters in bold

The most experience returns on the pitching staff, but even that isn’t much, although several players return from injuries they suffered last season:

UCF Baseball 2020 Projected Pitching Staff

Pos Role # Name Year T 2019
Pos Role # Name Year T 2019
SP Friday 10 Colton Gordon Jr. L 7-4, 2.44 ERA, 86 K in 88.2 IP at Hillsborough CC
SP Saturday 15 Trevor Holloway Sr. R 2-0, 2.03 ERA, 29 K in 26.2 IP, redshirted after season-ending injury
SP Sunday 16 Hunter Patteson Fr. L 6-1, 0.91 ERA, 81 K in 51 IP as HS senior
SP Midweek 18 Zack Hunsicker So. R 3-1, 4.59 ERA, 33.1 IP in 21 app (1 start)
SP Midweek 19 Joe Sheridan Sr. L DNP due to torn labrum (3-3, 3.36 ERA, 49 K in 56.1 IP in '18)
SP Midweek 12 Jack Sinclair Jr. R 4-3, 5.20 ERA, 36.1 IP in 25 app, all as reliever
RP Closer 30 Jeffrey Hakenson Jr. R 1-0, 6 SV, 3.38 ERA, 52 K in 26.2 IP
RP Middle 1 David Litchfield Jr. R 2 ER, 5 K, 4 BB in 3.1 IP in injury-shortened year
RP Middle 4 Chad Luensmann Sr. R 1-2, 8.83 ERA, 17 K, 17 BB
RP Middle 11 Zack Helsel Sr. R 3.2 IP, 1 ER, 6 K before Tommy John surgery, aiming for April return
RP Middle 24 Major Posey Fr. R Baseball, basketball star at North Florida Christian HS
RP Middle 25 Nolan Lepkoske Fr. R Missed season after undergoing Tommy John surgery
RP Middle 31 Elijah McCormack Fr. R 70 K in 45 IP as HS senior
RP Middle 35 Billy McKay Jr. R 3.45 ERA, 75.2 ERA at Polk State College
RP Middle 3 Nick Gottilla Fr. L 9-1, 1.31 ERA, 95 K as HS senior
RP Middle 20 Jaylyn Whitehead Sr. L 5-2, 4.83 ERA, 50.1 IP in 21 app (10 starts)
RP Middle 28 Ryan Saltonstall Jr. L 1 scoreless appearance prior to season-ending injury
RP Middle 33 Keegan Pulford-Thorpe Fr. L HS senior drafted by Padres in 33rd round of MLB Draft
Newcomers in italics

Who We’re Playing

UCF has key non-conference match-ups with Florida State, Miami, and on the road at Auburn, and in conference play, the Knights face the top three schools in last year’s AAC standings all at home.

View the schedule here.

The Last Time UCF:

  • Made the NCAA Tournament: 2017
  • Won a conference tournament: 2002 (Atlantic Sun)
  • Made a regional final: 2004

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