Baseball Opens Fall Practice

ORLANDO – With the World Series continuing this week in Miami, the UCF baseball team officially begins preparations for the 2004 season with fall practice Monday. The Golden Knights have three weeks of fall practice beginning Oct. 20.

"Fall practice begins this week and we have three weeks of fall practice," stated UCF head coach Jay Bergman. "It's not really enough time, particularly with this team and all of the newcomers we have. Still, it is the time we have allotted and that is what we will have to do."

Bergman is set to embark on his 22nd season as head coach of the UCF baseball program. In the off-season, Bergman signed a five-year contract to remain as head coach.

The Golden Knights are coming off a disappointing 2003 campaign in which they finished 31-25 and failed to reach the Atlantic Sun Championships. With last season behind them, the 2004 club has plenty of potential with 11 position players and eight pitchers returning. In addition, 18 newcomers have been added to the roster.

"It will be an interesting fall," added Bergman. "Probably in the last 10 years, this will be the most competitive fall we will have for positions. I told the players probably the only thing I know is that Coach Cozart will call the pitches from the dugout and Coach Wolfe will coach third base."

"Besides that, I think we are going to have plenty of new faces out there with a tremendous accent on speed. If everything works out like we hope it will player wise, we will be a really exciting team with a chance to steal plenty of bases and move runners around."

With the theme on speed, UCF returns two speedy players in senior David Mann and junior Clay Timpner. Mann, the Knights' leadoff hitter in each of the last two seasons, hit .321 and was 17-for-19 in stolen base attempts a year ago. Timpner, one of the elite defensive outfielders in the nation, returns as the team's leading hitter after batting .347 in 2003. Timpner also led the Golden Knights with 22 stolen bases in 24 attempts last season.

Florida State transfer Kevin Richmond brings plenty of speed to the lineup and will be one of the newcomers to keep an eye on in 2004. Richmond can play in the infield and might also get a chance in the outfield.

On the mound, Bergman can rely on three juniors who have the stuff to be dominant on the hill. Matt Fox, Jaime Douglas and Taylor Cobb have all shown flashes of brilliance during their careers and will be a cornerstone of this season's pitching staff.

At closer, sophomore Kyle Bono returns after one of the finest rookie seasons in school history. Bono was 4-2 with a 0.83 ERA in 2003. The Lake Mary native saved two games and totaled 43 strikeouts in 32.2 innings of work.

UCF also returns one of the nation's top 1-2 catching tandems in sophomores Drew Butera and Ryan Bono. Butera, named one of the Great Lakes Summer League's top 10 prospects according to Baseball America, has one of the best arms behind the dish in the nation. Butera threw out 20-of-39 would-be base stealers a year ago while also hitting .305.

Bono had a strong off-season and worked hard on improving his skills defensively and with the bat. As a freshman, Bono batted .265.

UCF opens the 2004 season Feb. 6 at Florida International. The Golden Knights open their 2004 home schedule Feb. 13-15 with a three-game series vs. LSU.

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