The UCF Knights were not the worst team in the American Athletic Conference in anything last season. Well, except for record in league play. I guess that’s a pretty big thing not to be good at. Still, the Knights enter 2017 just a year removed from winning 31 games so this isn’t a lost cause.
With just eight wins in 24 league games, UCF obviously fell short of where it would have liked to finish in 2016. However, the Knights were a more middle of the road team outside of league play (17-18). Sure, mediocre isn’t great, but its a touch better than awful.
The Knights won their first league series of the season, taking two of three from Memphis and they won another one just two weeks later, taking the last two games of a three-game set with USF. They also took a series against Cincinnati, blasting their way to a 12-1 win in a Saturday contest following an 8-7 victory the night before. Their success against Cincinnati was the saving grace of the campaign, as UCF lost seven-straight games entering the an elimination game in the AAC Tournament against the Bearcats, which it claimed victory in. It was a major letdown for UC, but at least gave UCF something to work with.
As I mentioned above, UCF was not terrible in most respects. The Knights hit .256 as a team, stole 67 bases and hit 38 home runs. They also pitched to a 4.23 ERA which wasn’t stellar, but was much better than USF (4.43) and Memphis (5.04). They were also a fine fielding team, committing 66 errors and tying for fourth in the AAC in fielding percentage (.971).
Players to Watch
Brennan Bozeman, SS
A senior shortstop from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bozeman was UCF’s most consistent batter, slashing .299/.344/.389. He may not have done much in terms of power (six total extra base hits), but he got on base frequently and was a solid leadoff hitter.
Eli Putnam, RF
Another senior, Putnam is an outfielder originally from Palo Cedro, California. He batted .286 last season and launched four home runs while totaling 74 bases, third-most on the roster.
Austin Griffin, 1B
If you are looking for the power threat on this team, Griffin is it. He blasted a team-high 10 home runs and also had 15 doubles and a team-best 41 RBI as well. He may have only batted .251 but he went 2-for-3 in UCF’s win over UC in the AAC tourney.
Kam Gellinger, 2B
Gellinger teams with Bozeman at the top of the lineup, setting the table for the batters in the middle of the order, including leftfielder Matt Diorio. Gellinger batted .283 last season and led the team in doubles while ranking second in total bases (77).
Robby Howell, RHP
You can expect the senior from Fort White, Florida to take the ball most Friday nights. Easily the best pitcher on the roster, Howell went 7-4 with a 1.98 ERA in 15 starts last season. He also ranked second on the team with 65 strikeouts in 100 innings pitched.
Most of the lineup is still there, so the Knights should be decent to solid when its their turn to shake the lumber. Pitching remains and issue outside of Howell, especially in the bullpen. UCF will likely still be looking at a losing season in 2016