Wrap up of 2012 UCF season

The 2012 UCF baseball season came to a screeching halt after the Knights dropped two-consecutive heart breaking games to be bounced from the NCAA Regionals.

A little over a week removed from UCF’s departure in the Coral Gables Regional, head coach Terry Rooney was able to step back from the disappointing end to the season.

“I have had some time to assess this season, and first and foremost I’m really proud of these kids and what they accomplished,” Rooney said. “Certainly everybody is disappointed that we didn’t get to Omaha. Although we were three wins away from it, there are no regrets.”

The milestones the Knights reached this season easily rank the 2012 team as the best in school history, but will fans recognize the 2013 squad? Many key pieces to this season’s success will be missing next year, and UCF will need their young players to step up.

“It’s going to happen, and it should happen pretty often,” said Rooney of losing so many key players this offseason. “You’re not going to be a nationally-ranked baseball program without players getting drafted to a professional baseball team.”

Juniors Joe Rogers (all-time saves leader in UCF history), Darnell Sweeney (started all but one game the last three seasons), Ronnie Richardson (led team with .480 on-base percentage after being hit with 31 pitches), and D.J. Hicks (led team with 14 HR, and 72 RBI) were all drafted and won’t be returning next season.

Those four players were key to the Knights’ success this season, the leaders of a draft class that transformed UCF’s program. Since their draft class, UCF has consistently ranked near the top of the nation in recruiting.

“To have six players drafted is great,” said Rooney. “All of those guys had great seasons and great careers for us, so it was exciting.”

Young players like Eric Skoglund, Ben Lively, James Vasquez and Jeramy Matos will be expected to fill the void the departing players have left. They also will rely on the return of outfielder Eric Hempe, who sat out his entire senior season with a leg injury, and hopes to earn a redshirt to continue his college career.

“Having Hempe would be huge,” Rooney said. “He is a proven player, and he’s a middle of the lineup hitter.”

Of the remaining players, 17 Knights will be playing summer ball across the country in preparation for the 2013 season.

“Chris Taladay and Ryan Breen will be two of the best players in the country next year,” said Rooney. “Their leadership role on this team will be tremendous.”