NCAA Baseball Tournament 2012: UCF's Cinderella Season Ends in a Blaze of Glory

Nicholas StanleyContributor IIJune 6, 2012

Courtesy of Kurt Rivers/KnightNews.com
Courtesy of Kurt Rivers/KnightNews.com

Terry Rooney had kind words for his players at the close of their season in Coral Gables on Monday.

Though they had a tremendous year—nationally ranked since preseason and climbing as high as seventh in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll—there was a sense of unfinished business in the coach's face and player attitudes.

The UCF Knights had a Cinderella year.

With a final record of 45-17 (16-8), this year's team held their own with the best clubs in the country and swept most of their series.

With exceptional pitching from Chris Matulis, Joe Rogers, Ben Lively and Roman Madrid, the Knights left runners on base and struck out opposing batters an amazing 484 times.

Coach Rooney preached consistency and the Knights delivered, committing few errors all year and forgetting losses by invoking the "midnight rule."

On defense, UCF got tremendous play from Alex Friedrich, Darnell Sweeney, Travis Shreve and Ronnie Richardson, taking a lot of pressure off of plate appearances.

Friedrich made highlight-reel plays all season and Rooney had plenty of compliments for the one-time walk-on from Orlando.

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On offense, D.J. Hicks led the Knights, and the country, in RBIs throughout the spring, finishing the season tied for fifth nationally with 72 in 62 games played.

Friedrich, Jeramy Matos, Ronnie Richardson, Chris Taladay and Darnell Sweeney added a hit and run, small ball and power hitting combination.

They challenged opposing pitchers all year.

Though the clubhouse doors are closed for the season (as we turn our attention to football), the UCF Knights baseball team has plenty to be proud.

We'll look forward to next season with great anticipation.

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