Nov. 20, 2007
ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - With the early signing period in full swing, the UCF baseball team announced Tuesday that it signed 14 players to National Letters of Intent and they will begin donning the Black & Gold uniform for the 2009 season.
"This is by far one of the best recruiting classes we have had here at UCF," said 26th-year head coach Jay Bergman. "I give a lot of praise to coach Craig Cozart and coach Bryan Peters for their continuous hard work in targeting these players."
Part of that class is five players from Winter Springs High School. The Bears posted a 26-2 record a year ago and was ranked as the 12th-best team in the country according to Baseball America.
"That was nerve-racking for us getting five guys from the same school," said Peters. "We actually beat our heads together as a coaching staff, saying `can we really get these five guys.' Now you look at it and can say there were still two other guys on that team that have the potential to be Division I players as well. Winter Springs is definitely going to be one of the top high school teams in the nation this year."
"All five guys didn't commit at the same time," added Cozart. "It was a process of us evaluating them as individual players and once it got to the point that we realized there were all of these Division I-type guys on this team, then our number (of recruits) grew."
Meanwhile, all 14 players are Florida natives.
"I think with coach Peters' connections in the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Lakeland area and our long-term connections here in the Orlando area, our goal as a staff has been to try to dominate that region from Tampa to Orlando and down to Melbourne," said Cozart. "And if we are able to get a majority of the players that we are interested in year in and year out from those three areas, then we should be able to field a competitive team every year."
Here's an in-depth look at each addition to the UCF program, as well as comments from Cozart, the Knights' recruiting coordinator and pitching coach, and Peters, UCF's hitting coach.
UCF Baseball's Signing Class
Bryan Brown - RHP - Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Anthony Figliolia - RHP/INF - Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Wesley Freeman - OF - Lakeland, Fla./All Saints Academy
D.J. Hicks - 1B - Altamonte Springs, Fla./Lake Brantley
Graham Hicks - LHP - Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins
Jake Huxtable - INF - Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Jamie Mallard - 1B/DH - Tampa, Fla./Middleton
Noah Piard - RHP - Winter Park, Fla./Lake Howell
Jordan Rasinski - RHP - Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Matt Richardson - INF/RHP - Lake Mary, Fla./Lake Mary
Jacob Rogers - INF - Clearwater, Fla./Dunedin
Austin Smith - OF - Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Beau Taylor - Catcher - Rockledge, Fla./Rockledge
B.J. Zimmerman - OF - Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola
Bryan Brown - RHP
Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
As a junior, went 6-0 in nine appearances with six starts...Tossed two complete-game shutouts...Surrendered only one earned run in 38.0 innings for a 0.18 ERA...Struck out 42 batters while walking just eight...Opposing hitters batted .167 against him...At the plate, hit .279 with 18 RBI...Held a .972 fielding percentage...Was the winning pitcher in the first game of the District 3 Tournament.
Craig Cozart: "Bryan Brown is the essence of a pitcher. We've seen him pitch on three-consecutive days and not lose anything. We've seen him start and go into the sixth and seventh innings and not lose his stuff. He truly understands what he is as a pitcher. He isn't going to wow you with his velocity and will pitch in the mid to upper 80s. He's got tremendous sink and is a ground-ball pitcher. He throws his slider in any count, has a workable change-up and comes from a low three-quarter slot which give him a lot of deception. He's got great command and understanding of what he's got to do on the mound, which will put him in a position to fit into a variety of rolls for us, anything from the rotation to the back end of the bullpen. So he's a guy that can be a factor right away."
Anthony Figliolia - RHP/INF
Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Listed as the No. 252 top prospect in the Perfect Game Crosschecker national rankings...Mostly came out of the bullpen as a junior, making 11 appearances with one start...Posted a 1.42 ERA with a 1-1 record and five saves...Struck out 24 batters in 19.2 innings...Also had a .256 average at the plate with one homer and 14 RBI...Also stole eight bases and had seven of the team's 12 sacrifice bunts...Picked up the win over Oviedo in the District Three Tournament...Named the Winter Springs Most Outstanding Varsity Pitcher as a freshman...Tossed a perfect game in varsity debut and a no-hitter in his second outing...Struck out seven in three innings at the 2007 East Coast Showcase...Was selected to the 2006 WWBA World Championship All-Prospect Team.
Craig Cozart: "Anthony will be another two-way player for us. Arguably, he will be one of the best defensive infielders that we have ever had. His hands are golden and even though he is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, he has legitimate range and his arm strength will back it up. The stick will play and that's what will determine what he does for us on the position player side. But he will literally wow you with what he does defensively. We've seen him make Brooks Robinson-type plays at third. On the mound he has made huge strides. He was the co-MVP of the World Wood Bat tournament in the summer. He is very aggressive and will come right at you. He can run it up there to 91 mph. His outpitch is his slider, which right now plays at this level. I've seen it up to 83 mph and it's a swing and miss power breaking ball that will put him in a position to do a variety of things for us. He's a guy that is very strong and energetic. He's a field rat who loves to be on the baseball field."
Wesley Freeman - OF
Lakeland, Fla./All Saints Academy
The No. 18 top prospect in the Perfect Game Crosschecker national rankings...Was an Aflac All-American last year and participated in the Aflac All-American High School Classic in San Diego...Went 1-for-4 in the prestigious game that features the top 38 players in the country competing in front of a sell-out crowd at Tony Gwynn Stadium...Selected as the News Chief 2007 Player of the Year...Named to first team all-state by the Florida Sports Writers Association...Hit. 478 at the dish with 35 RBI...On the mound, went 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 69 strikeouts...Nominated by major-league scouts to play in the invitation-only Perfect Game National Showcase in Cincinnati in the summer of 2007...As a sophomore, posted a .557 batting average and 43 RBI.
Bryan Peters: "Wesley Freeman is probably one of the most publicized guys we have ever had. He was an Aflac All-American and highly rated by Perfect Game USA. We are talking about a 6-foot-5, middle of the order hitter who can really run. His best tool, surprisingly with his 6-foot-5 frame, is that he has speed. He is a five-tool player with arm strength, big-time power, exceptional speed and good batting average and defensive skills. This is a high-caliber, high-class guy whose ceiling is really high. Just a phenomenal player."
D.J. Hicks - 1B
Altamonte Springs, Fla./Lake Brantley
Listed as No. 39 on Perfect Game USA's top players in the 2008 class, and No. 55 in the overall national rankings...Rated as the No. 78 top prospect in the country by Baseball America...Was a 2007 Louisville Slugger High School Preaseason All-American in 2007...Named Class 6A all-state honorable mention by the Florida Sports Writers Association in 2007...Competed for the USA Baseball Youth National Team in 2006, which went 9-0 for the gold medal in the COPABE `AA' Youth Pan Am Championships...Was selected to the 2006 WWBA World Championship All-Prospect Team...Hit .346 in eight starts with Team USA, posting three homers and 14 RBI while not making an error in 61 chances...Batted .485 as a junior for Lake Brantley.
Bryan Peters: "We are talking about a middle of the order guy who is over 6-foot-5 and a left-handed hitter. He has the potential to play first base and I compared him to John Olerud the first time I saw him. He is that type of a pure hitter that has the ability to hit for power. He is pretty smooth and graceful in everything he does. Those two qualities are some of his best attributes in his game. DJ is intimidating in the dugout all of the way to when he steps into the batter's box. He could be a big factor for us."
Graham Hicks - LHP
Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins
Led George Jenkins to the 2007 district title by going the distance with six strikeouts in a 1-0 win over Lake Region, which came just a few days after hitting a two-out walkoff homer in the seventh inning to defeat Lakeland in the regular-season finale...Won seven games as his team reached the regional semifinals...Named Class 5A all-state honorable mention by the Florida Sports Writers Association in 2007...Helped Chet Lemon's Juice claim the 2007 WWBA 2007/18U National Championship by pitching six shutout innings in the team's semifinal win.
Craig Cozart: "A 6-foot-4 left-handed pitcher that has got an unbelievable amount of potential left in him, even though his stuff is ready right now. He could walk on campus and pitch in our rotation immediately. He's going to pitch comfortably, from 88-89 mph and we've seen him run it up to 90-91. He has developed a slider that is just unhittable right now. He pitched down in Lakeland at the Florida Diamond Club and punched out all six guys that he faced. He runs it in on righties and away on lefties, both are equally effective. He's got a change-up and a curveball and he's a true four-pitch guy, which is very rare to say that you are bringing in a four-pitch guy onto campus. He loves to play the game and it's really fun to watch Graham Hicks pitch because he has such enthusiasm with a care-free attitude even though he is a great competitor. He is a very, very polished left-handed pitcher at this point."
Jake Huxtable - INF
Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Is listed in the top 1,000 in the Perfect Game Crosschecker national rankings...Led Winter Springs with a .421 batting average as a junior...Also was the team leader with 95 at-bats, 40 runs scored and seven doubles...Posted an OPS of .968...Had a 24-game hitting streak as a freshman...Competed in the Perfect Game USA National Underclass and the 2005 SE Underclass Showcase...Son of current UCF football linebackers and special teams coach Dave Huxtable.
Bryan Peters: "Jake's going to be your bulldog college player. He's limited to second base but that's a perfect spot for him. He has the potential to be an offensive second baseman. That's not saying he's not going to play good defense because he has really improved in the field. He is a gritty, gutty, ratty college player who gets dirty and works hard. He will be a bulldog for all four years in college baseball. He wasn't signed, sealed and delivered just because his dad is part of the football coaching staff. It was a pretty good battle to get him."
Jamie Mallard - 1B/DH
Listed as No. 351 in the Perfect Game Crosschecker top prospect national rankings...Named to The St. Petersburg Times and The Tampa Tribune's Hillsborough County Second Teams...Hit .411 with seven homers as a junior while also collecting 26 RBI...Batted .438 with a pair of home runs as a sophomore...Helped Middleton advance to the 5A regional semifinals...Featured in a Sports Illustrated for Kids article that highlighted the top five power hitters in the country under 22 in 2002, when he was only 11 years old...Godson of former major leaguer Carl Everett.
Bryan Peters: "Jamie Mallard probably has the most power I have ever seen in terms of recruiting. He has the type of power that in BP both teams stop what they are doing and they watch how far he hits the ball. He hit a home run out of Tropicana Field in Tampa at 13 years old. And it shows up in the games too, he's not just a five o'clock hitter. Hand Size, hand speed and bat speed equal big power with Jamie. And he moves well for his frame of 250 pounds. He has soft hands, is agile and has plenty of arm strength."
Noah Piard - RHP
Winter Park, Fla./Lake Howell
Ranked No. 375 in the Perfect Game Crosschecker top prospect national rankings...Went 2-2 with a 3.30 ERA as a junior...Struck out 24 with just seven walks...Did not give up a run in final seven games of the season, including pitching a complete-game shutout with eight strikeouts vs. Lyman...Also hit .243 at the plate with a home run...Was selected to the 2006 WWBA World Championship All-Prospect Team.
Craig Cozart: "Noah is another stocky body who is not your prototypical power pitcher as far as physical size goes. But he is a prototypical power pitcher when it comes to his stuff. Another sinkerballer who can run it in at 88-89 mph and we've seen him get it up to 92. He stays in the bottom of the zone relentlessly to get his ground balls. He throws a quality breaking pitch that is somewhere between a slider and curveball so we can call it a slurve. He shows an occasional change-up. Noah is a tremendous but quiet competitor. He's a guy that when you see him out there on the mound, he's stoic and emotionless. You know when you put him on the mound that you will be in every game. And he will be another guy that will see significant time as a freshman."
Jordan Rasinski - RHP
Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Listed as the No. 153 top prospect in the Perfect Game Crosschecker national rankings...Was Winter Springs' workhorse as a junior, making 12 starts with one complete-game shutout...Earned an 8-1 record with a 0.82 ERA, holding hitters to a .198 average...Fanned 56 batters in 51.0 innings...Was selected to the 2006 WWBA World Championship All-Prospect Team...Was one of just eight players who threw at least 92 mph at the Perfect Game USA National Underclass Showcase...Competed in the 2006 PG Sunshine East Showcase.
Craig Cozart: "Jordan Rasinski is a right-hander out of Winter Springs who we have seen for a very, very long time. We saw him as a sophomore run the ball up to 93 mph on the mound, but he wasn't a pitcher at that time. He has been able to evolve into where he understands what it means to truly pitch. He's content to throw the ball at 88 or 89, but when he needs to, he can dial it up to 92. He has a good swing-and-miss breaking ball and a workable change-up. He's a three-pitch guy with a strong body that has a tremendous amount of resilience in his arm. If we talk about players of the past, he reminds me of Justin Pope because he's a smaller kid in terms of pitching, but he's got good downward tilt despite his lack of height on the mound. He's a ground ball pitcher that can get the swing and miss when he needs to."
Matt Richardson - INF/RHP
Lake Mary, Fla./Lake Mary
Owns the No. 98 position in the Perfect Game Crosschecker top prospect national rankings...Hit .405 as a junior and struck out only twice...On the mound, fanned 11 in six innings of work...Member of the Dixie National Team that competed in the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars in 2007, and did not surrender an earned run in 2.2 innings pitched...Ranked as the No. 18 top player in the state of Florida's class of 2008 by Prospectwire...Was listed as one of the 60 top position players at the Perfect Game USA 2007 National Showcase...Brother of current UCF baseball senior Ryan Richardson.
Craig Cozart: "Matt is another one in a long line of two-way players that we have recruited at UCF. He's got tremendous upside on the mound and he's only been pitching for a little over a year. He's got tremendous arm strength and runs the ball between 88 and 92 mph on the mound with a good breaking ball. He's just beginning to realize his potential on the mound. He will have the opportunity to swing the bat for us as well and compete at a couple of different infield positions. Historically he reminds us of Matt Fox who came here as a middle infielder and a right-handed pitcher and eventually developed into a first-round pick."
Jacob Rogers - INF
Listed as the No. 138 top prospect in the Perfect Game Crosschecker national rankings...Named the Pinellas County Player of the Year as a sophomore and a junior...Batted .520 during his junior season...Was the Pinellas County batting champion as a sophomore, going .622 (a school record) at the plate with eight dingers and 40 RBI...Also had an on-base percentage of .713 (another school record).
Bryan Peters: "Another physical force. We are talking about a 6-foot-5, left-handed hitting infielder who could also play the outfield. He has really legitimate power and is really strong with his bat speed. He will hit for a high average...He's as big time and as prime as they get right now. He's going to play more on the left side of the infield, and normally at 6-foot-5 you don't normally see that. But he follows in the Cal Ripken mold. In UCF history, he reminds me of Matt Bowser in terms of numbers. He has that kind of power with a fluid swing that looks pretty."
Austin Smith - OF
Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Claims a spot in the top 1,000 in the Perfect Game Crosschecker national rankings...Wrapped up junior season with a .333 average, 24 runs scored, a home run and 15 RBI...Went 20-for-23 in stolen-base attempts...Walked 26 times while posting just 12 strikeouts...Notched an OPS of .941.
Bryan Peters: "Austin Smith is fun to watch. He's got it all and is physically put together for his frame. He's got real power potential but will be a lead-off type of guy. So he's got speed and throws and hits left-handed. Definitely a potential center fielder as he can go get them in the outfield. We really liked his aptitude and the way he adjusted. When he can put it all together, which he is going to, he will have the power, speed, arm strength and the defense to compete at the college level. So athletic and fun are words that come to mind when I see him. Things just come really easy to him."
Beau Taylor - Catcher
Finished junior season with a .425 batting average for Rockledge...Banged out four homers and collected 28 RBI...Also had 12 doubles, four triples and a .720 on-base percentage.
Bryan Peters: "Beau Taylor will give me a run for my money when I say that B.J. Zimmerman (profile below) is the most pure hitter because Beau is right up there too. He really is the sleeper of the group because a lot of people haven't seen him. We have a story with him because we had to go back over and over again to prove to ourselves that he was as good as we thought he was. We literally couldn't think that he could be this good. So Cozart went back and said, `Yeah, he is that good.' And I went back and said, `Yeah, he is that good.' But Beau is another left-handed hitter which is a commodity for a catcher to hit from the left side. He doesn't swing and miss a lot and when he does swing, he squares it up. It could be left center or right center, and we've seen him hit some home runs. He's a lefty with a good approach at the plate and that translates into a high average with gap power."
B.J. Zimmerman - OF
Listed in the top 500 in the Perfect Game Crosschecker top prospect national rankings...Led Osceola with a .431 batting average and seven doubles...Also was the team leader with a .542 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage for an OPS of 1.080...Walked 15 times while striking out on just nine occasions.
Bryan Peters: "B.J. is probably the purest hitter out of this whole group. He isn't as big and doesn't have as much foot speed, but in terms of being a pure hitter, he squares everything up. He can hit a backspin line drive to left center just as easily as he can burn the right fielder down the line. He doesn't swing and miss much, and his batting practices are beautiful to watch. He is just a pure, line-drive hitter and we liked him because he did it off everybody."
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