UCF Hosts No. 15 Florida Atlantic

ORLANDO - UCF will look to make its move within the Atlantic Sun conference this weekend as the Golden Knights host No. 15 Florida Atlantic in a key three-game series at Jay Bergman Field. The Golden Knights (24-15, 8-7) are currently in seventh place in the conference while the Blue Wave (32-9, 16-5) lead the A-Sun. Florida Atlantic is also the only A-Sun school ranked in all three national top 25 polls.

In 12 of UCF's final 15 conference games this season, the Golden Knights will face four teams that are currently ahead of them in the A-Sun. The critical stretch of games starts Friday with a rematch of the 2002 Atlantic Sun tournament title game. The Golden Knights won three of four from FAU last season, including an 8-6 victory to clinch UCF's sixth A-Sun conference title.

All three games this weekend are on the UCF ISP Sports Network. The voice of the Golden Knights Marc Daniels will call all of the action live from Orlando on 740-AM The Team. Friday's game starts at 7 p.m. while the series finishes with two, seven-inning games Saturday at 1 p.m.

Scouting Florida Atlantic
The Blue Wave of Florida Atlantic enter this weekend's series with an overall record of 32-9 including a 16-5 A-Sun mark. Florida Atlantic is ranked in all three national polls.

The Blue Wave are ranked No. 15 by Baseball America, No. 17 by Collegiate Baseball News and No. 22 in the Sports Weekly/ESPN Coaches Top 25.

FAU ranks first as a team in the conference in batting (.320) and ERA (3.17).

Sophomore outfielder Jeff Fiorentino has had a monster year, leading the Blue Wave with 12 home runs to go along with a .381 batting average and 35 RBI.

On the mound, four FAU pitchers have tallied at least six wins led by staff ace Danny Core. The senior right-hander has been the top pitcher in the A-Sun in 2003. Core, who will start the series opener, is 6-1 with a 1.44 ERA in 62.1 innings of work including 62 strikeouts. Core has held the opposition to a miniscule .195 batting average in 2003.

FAU will send junior left-handed pitcher Randy Beam to the hill Saturday in game one of the doubleheader. Beam leads FAU with eight wins (8-1) in 58.0 innings. He has 56 strikeouts and just 11 walks this season.

In his 16th season at the helm of the FAU program, head coach Kevin Cooney is 551-345-4 at FAU.

Inside The FAU Series
UCF is 33-17 all-time vs. Florida Atlantic after winning three of four last season. On May 3 last season, the Golden Knights topped FAU 14-9 in Boca Raton to give head coach Jay Bergman his 1,000th collegiate victory. Bergman became just the 25th person in NCAA history to reach the 1,000-win plateau.

Florida Atlantic is also the last ranked team UCF defeated after the Golden Knights topped then-No. 19 FAU 7-5 last May.

UCF downed the Blue Wave 8-6 on May 25 for the program's sixth A-Sun conference title. The Golden Knights have won more A-Sun titles than any other conference school.

UCF is 9-3 in its last 12 games at home vs. FAU including a 2-1 mark at Jay Bergman Field.

Best Friends Meet Friday
UCF senior right-handed pitcher Von David Stertzbach is very familiar with Friday's starting pitcher for FAU. Stertzbach will face his best friend and former high school teammate Danny Core. The duo formed one of the nation's top pitching staffs at Westminster Academy. In 1999, Westminster finished No. 2 in the nation as they ended the year 33-2. Both pitchers were a perfect 12-0 as seniors to close out their careers at Westminster.

This season, Stertzbach is 1-4 with a 4.22 ERA. In 53.1 innings, Stertzbach has fanned 48 batters.

Going The Distance
Senior right-handed pitcher Mark Michael will start game two of the series for UCF Saturday. Michael has pitched four consecutive complete games for UCF to raise his record to a team-best 6-2.

The Kentucky native also leads the team in innings pitched (55.0) while ranking third on the team with 44 strikeouts. Opponents are batting just .210 on the year vs. Michael.

Golden With The Glove
UCF leads the A-Sun and ranks 13th nationally with a .974 fielding percentage. The Golden Knights have committed just 37 errors on the year.

The .974 fielding percentage is also on pace to set a new single-season record at UCF. The 2001 team that finished 51-14 holds the school record with a .973 fielding percentage.

A Comeback For The Ages
UCF pulled off the biggest comeback victory in Jay Bergman's 21 years as head coach vs. Campbell on April 4. The Golden Knights trailed 9-0 in the eighth inning before a late rally to win the contest 10-9 in 12 innings.

The nine-run comeback win is also the largest comeback victory in the Atlantic Sun conference this season.

UCF managed to score four times in the eighth vs. the Fighting Camels before putting up a five-spot in the ninth to tie the contest.

The Golden Knights eventually won the game in the 12th to improve their record to 4-1 in extra innings this season.

Home Sweet Home
UCF is 71-23 (.755) all-time at Jay Bergman Field. Against non-conference opponents, the Golden Knights are 41-9 (.820) all-time.

In conference action, UCF is 30-14 (.681) all-time vs. A-Sun foes at Jay Bergman Field.

Winning The Close Games
UCF is 7-8 in one-run games in 2003 and 4-1 in extra-inning contests. Since 1985, the Golden Knights are 168-124 in games decided by one run. In games that have gone to extra innings since 1985, UCF is 41-28-1.

What A Run In The A-Sun
Over the last three seasons, UCF has been almost untouchable in the A-Sun. The Golden Knights have won three regular season conference crowns and two tournament titles since 2000. UCF is 68-19 (.782) in the conference over the three-year span.

In all, UCF has won the A-Sun six times, the most of any conference school.

One Of The Nation's Elite Programs
UCF is one of just five schools in the nation over the last two seasons to win a conference title, reach the 40-win plateau, and earn a spot in the NCAA Championships. The Golden Knights are joined in the exclusive club by Coastal Carolina (Big South), Oral Roberts (Mid-Continent), Southern (Southwestern) and Rice (Western Athletic).

UCF finished the 2001 season 51-14 and 41-22 last year.

In addition, UCF has won at least 40 games in three straight seasons and seven out of the last eight years. In 1999, UCF finished with 38 wins and missed the NCAA Tournament. The 1999 campaign was the last time UCF failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Overall, UCF has made eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament to go along with six A-Sun Conference titles.

Off To A Good Start
The UCF offense has scored 39 first-inning runs this season while only allowing 25. In the first three innings combined in 2003, the Golden Knights are outscoring their opponents 92-57.

Bear Continues To Impress
Senior Ryan Bear has been one of UCF's most improved players in 2003. After batting .283 in 39 games in his first season at UCF last year, Bear leads the Golden Knights in batting this season at .378.

The Panama City native was just seven games away from tying the school record earlier in the year with a 19-game hitting streak. Mike Myers owns the UCF record with a 26-game hitting streak he tallied from April 3 to May 19, 2001.

Bear also leads the club in hits (50), doubles (14), triples (4), home runs (4), RBI (T-1st/30), total bases (84), slugging percentage (.641) while ranking third on the team in stolen bases (6-for-8).

At This Time Last Season
The numbers don't lie ... after 39 games last season; UCF was 24-15, just like 2003. The following is a breakdown of last year's totals at this point of the season and where UCF is currently.

2002 2003
Overall Record 24-15 24-15
At Home 17-4 18-10
On The Road 6-11 6-5
Neutral 1-0 0-0
A-Sun 12-2 8-7
Batting Avg. .305 .301
Runs 257 240
Hits 384 370
Home Runs 21 15
RBI 227 218
Stolen Bases 57-78 52-64
ERA 3.71 4.19
Inn. Pitched 323.0 333.0
Strikeouts 320 328
Walks 137 133
Saves 7 9

Freshman right-handed pitcher Kyle Bono has performed as well as any freshmen pitcher in the nation in 2003. The Lake Mary native is 4-1 with a 0.36 ERA in 14 appearances including one save. Bono has yielded just 11 hits in 24.1 innings of work while totaling 31 strikeouts and just six walks. Opponents are batting .136 vs. the rookie.

Bono has felt right at home on the mound, especially pitching to his twin brother Ryan. Ryan is a catcher on the team and has formed the first brother-brother battery in UCF history several times this season.

Dealing With Dee
Sophomore outfielder Dee Brown has started to heat up at the plate as the season has moved along for the Golden Knights. The 2002 Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American is hitting .314 on the year and is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak.

Through UCF's first 17 games of the season, Brown was hitting just .250 with five doubles and nine RBI. Over his last 18 games, Brown is batting .370 (27-for-73) with two doubles and 19 RBI.

Brown has been a tough out for pitchers in the Atlantic Sun in his two seasons within the conference. As a freshman, Brown hit an amazing .490 in conference games (51-for-104) with eight doubles, three home runs and 32 RBI. This season, he is hitting .380 (19-for-50) with 16 RBI against conference competition. For his career, Brown is batting .454 (70-for-154) against A-Sun pitching.

Even more impressive, Brown does not have the fall season to prepare for baseball since he is playing football for UCF. The running back/linebacker was second on the team with 170 rushing yards and three touchdowns in 2002.

Not So Fast My Friend
Freshman catcher Drew Butera has quickly established himself as the top throwing catcher in the Atlantic Sun. Opposing base runners have had their hands full attempting to steal on the rookie. Butera has thrown out 53% of the runners attempting to steal against him (16-for-30).

Butera had a great person to learn the catching position from as a youngster. Drew's father Sal Butera was a catcher in Major League Baseball for the Twins, Reds, Expos and Blue Jays.

Butera has also started to find his swing at the plate. The freshman is batting a season-best .329 with the bat. The 2003 Baseball America Preseason Freshman of the Year in the Atlantic Sun, Butera leads UCF in batting over the last 18 games with a .404 average (19-for-47).

Updating The Record Books
Several UCF players have moved up in the career and single-season record books in 2003.

Senior RHP Von David Stertzbach has moved into sixth place on the career strikeout list at UCF with 205. He moved past current UCF pitching coach Craig Cozart into sixth place after recording two strikeouts at Belmont last Friday. Stertzbach is also among the school's all-time greats in relief appearances (67/4th) and appearances (75/4th). Stertzbach also joined an elite list of just seven UCF pitchers that have accumulated at least 200 career strikeouts.

Seniors Rich Wallace and Nathan Kragt continue to add to their totals of being hit by a pitch. Wallace is UCF's all-time leader in the category with 40 HBP, while Kragt is fifth with 16 HBP. Kragt's 10 HBP in 2003 put the senior infielder tied for fifth in single-season history.

More Diamond Notes ...
The Golden Knights lead the league in fielding with a .974 fielding percentage, but their opponents have also totaled an impressive .969 fielding percentage ... UCF is hitting .292 (134-for-459) with runners in scoring position ... With two outs, the Golden Knights are batting .287 as a team (117-for-407) with 88 two-out RBI ... As a team, UCF is hitting .185 (12-for-65) in pinch hitting situations ... Right-handed hitting opponents are batting just .254 (299-for-1203) vs. the UCF pitching staff.

UCF In The A-Sun Rankings

Team Rankings
Batting .301 2nd
Pitching 4.19 4th
Fielding .974 1st
Stolen Bases 52-65 1st
Ryan Bear .382 4th
Mark Michael 3.11 8th
Ryan Bear 14 2nd
Ryan Bear 4 1st
Clay Timpner 3 T-2nd
Stolen Bases
Clay Timpner 18-19 1st

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