Series Preview: UCF Knights

Winners of eight of their last nine games, Maryland baseball looks to stay hot like the weather in Orlando this weekend when they head south to take on a strong UCF squad.

The Terps are coming off a midweek win over nearby George Washington in College Park on Tuesday. Back-to-back homers from Matt Woods and Kevin Keister capped a late inning rally to secure a 9-6 victory.

After a slow start to the season that dropped them out of the D1Baseball Top 25 rankings, Maryland has righted the ship over the last two weeks, taking advantage of a softer schedule than they played early in the season.

A good showing in sunny Florida this weekend would be a huge boost for the Terps ahead of their Big Ten opener at Iowa next weekend.

Here is what to watch for against the Knights.

UCF Knights (15-6)

Last Season:

UCF finished the 2022 season with a 35-23 overall record and a 14-10 conference record, good enough for second place in the American Athletic Conference behind East Carolina, who ran away with the conference title and advanced to the super regionals. The Knights fell to Houston in the AAC tournament semifinals.

Four Knights earned All-AAC honors last season, and two of them returned this year: pitcher Ben Vespi, and catcher/designated hitter Andrew Sundean.

This Season:

UCF has been impressive in 2023 thus far, boasting a 15-6 record, which includes a 5-0 record against ACC teams with series sweeps over Clemson and Florida State. The Knights also swept Siena in their season opener, and Dartmouth last weekend. They return home coming off a loss at North Florida on Tuesday. 

After hosting the Terps, UCF will visit Florida Atlantic next Tuesday before beginning conference play at home against South Florida, who Maryland took two of three games from to open the season.

Hitters to Watch:

UCF is tied for 7th across all of Division I with 45 home runs, and they’re led by senior catcher Ben McCabe. 

McCabe has been the Knights’ best hitter, putting up video game numbers through 21 games. He holds a .449 batting average with 10 home runs and a ridiculous .910 slugging percentage.

Sophomore catcher/designated hitter Andrew Sundean, who earned Second Team All-AAC honors last season, has picked up right where he left off. Sundean leads the team with a .455 batting average and a .523 on-base percentage. He is third on the team in hits despite only playing in 14 of 21 games so far.

Two other hitters to watch are freshman infielder Drew Faurot and senior infielder Tom Josten, who both boast an OPS north of 1.000 and have hit six and eight home runs, respectively.

Pitchers to Watch:

Senior Ruddy Gomez and sophomore Dom Stagliano have provided the Knights with a reliable 1-2 punch this season. Gomez has struck out 35 with a 3.07 ERA in 29.2 innings pitched, and Stagliano has a 3.95 ERA in 27.1 innings.

Kyle Kramer has been UCF’s best arm out of the bullpen. The senior right-hander has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 20 to 3 and has held opponents to a .178 batting average to the tune of a 2.70 ERA in 13.1 innings of work.

Projected Starting Pitchers:

Friday, March 24th: Jason Savacool and Ruddy Gomez

Saturday, March 25th: Nick Dean and Dom Stagliano

Sunday, March 26th: Kyle McCoy and Jacob Marlowe