2024 UCF Knights Baseball Preview

by | Feb 14, 2024 | 2 comments

Home E Baseball E 2024 UCF Knights Baseball Preview

UCF Knights Embark on a Journey Navigating a New Conference

Now that the extended College Baseball pre-show known as the “Super Bowl” has concluded, let’s talk about this upcoming UCF Baseball season.

The Knights prepare to enter a new season, in a new conference, with new faces on the coaching staff, including first-year head coach and UCF Alum Rich Wallace and pitching coach Drew Thomas coming from the Milwaukee Brewers system after 16 years with Coastal Carolina.

Excitement is running high in Knight Nation, with the most season tickets ever sold in the program’s history, including the entire Club section.

Before diving into the new season, a quick recap of the 2023 campaign.

The Good

  • Power! The Knights had a record-setting power surge in 2023, clobbering a school record 109 home runs along with 109 doubles.
  • Relief! Last season saw the emergence of Najer Victor out of the bullpen, posting a team-best 2.88 ERA and striking out 50 over 34.1 innings, a 13.1 K/9 which slots him second on the team (minimum 20 innings) to Kyle Kramer (14.0). Both pitchers are returning for 2024 and are expected to be used in high leverage situations
  • Vibes! Please say the BOOM celebration on home runs is coming back …

The Bad

  • Defense. 72 errors led to a .967 fielding percentage that ranked 189th in all D1 baseball.
  • Pitching. While Kramer and Victor were fantastic late in games, the remainder of the pitching staff struggled to get the ball into their hands with leads, posting a team ERA of 5.80.
    • The pitching certainly was not helped by the defensive, erm, efforts.
  • Offense. As a whole. Despite those in the lineup hitting the ball out of the park near-often enough that the FAA considered making The John a flight risk, the overall approach was boom-or-bust, as the team struggled to get runs in outside of the long-ball, striking out 23.4% of the time while walking less than 10% of the time.

The Result

  • A quick exit (1-2) in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
  • A head coaching change for the first time in seven seasons.

The 2024 Outlook

Much of that power from the 2023 season is gone, whether by graduation or by transfer. 67 home runs and 60 doubles are out the door. Returning players Andrew Sundean (ranked #25 on D1Baseball’s Top 50 Catcher’s List) and first baseman Lex Boedicker had 32 of those homers and 20 of the doubles, and the Knights are looking for them to repeat or better their power outputs.

Coach Wallace also mentioned infielder Andrew Brait has improved in the power department over the fall. Brait, who has three total home runs which included a go-ahead grand slam during a massive rally against Dartmouth last year, should continue to sit at the top of the order as he did most of last season, providing the Knights a strong leadoff option.

Incoming transfers Andrew Estrella (presumed second base), Mikey Kluska (shortstop), and outfielders AJ Nessler and Anthony Calabro look to help round out the lineup and provide more balance to get away from the boom-or-bust approach, with Notre Dame transfer Jack “Coach” Zyska seeks to replace some more of the lost power. True Freshman outfielder Andrew Williamson is another one to watch this year.

On the mound, Ben Vespi has been named as perhaps the most-improved pitcher throughout the fall, and with some strong outings early in the year, he could settle in as the Friday starter. Dom Stagliano and Dom Castellano return and, along with incoming transfers Tyler Nesbitt and Cade Boxrucker look to fill out the rotation spots.

Further, the aforementioned return of Victor (ranked #19 on D1Baseball’s Top 50 Relievers) and Kramer, both named Captains by their teammates [along with Brait and Zyska], help anchor a bullpen that should be vastly improved.

Wallace is optimistic that the defense will hold up nicely throughout the season as the positions get settled with this final week of practice. All things tied together, we should see some more consistent baseball played this year by the sometimes-Citronauts.

Schedule Watching

  • The Knightronauts this year will play host to the following (currently) ranked teams:
    • #21 Oklahoma State [3/15-17]
    • #18 Texas Tech [3/28-3/30] NOTE – this is a Thursday-Saturday series
    • #24 Kansas State [4/5-4/7]
    • #9 Texas [5/10-5/12]
  • UCF will go on the road for a ranked opponent only once, and right before Big 12 play begins, as the team heads up to The Swamp to face #2 ranked Florida on Wednesday, March 6th.

Fun Tidbits

  • This season begins with the Bryant … Bulldogs. The following weekend, UCF hosts the Samford … Bulldogs. Weekend number three, the u”s”f … Bulls cows. Ain’t that some Bull?
  • With the new conference, the Knights will play ten conference weekends rather than the accustomed eight that the American Athletic Conference scheduled.
  • There are four Andrews on the team … and they could all be in the starting lineup! Brait, Sundean, Estrella, Williamson … goodness.
    • One would imagine pitching coach Drew Thomas would have liked at least one of them to be a pitcher.

Final Thoughts / Things to Keep in Mind

Akin to Football and Basketball, this will be a massive jump in competition. Coach Wallace said it best during media day: “there are no breaks in these lineups.” A reasonably successful first season in the Big 12 could still result in a less than stellar record at season’s end.

With That Being Said™, this should be a fun and potentially thrilling season. Come out and support the Knights as they work on making their way to Dallas.


About Michael Theed
Michael is a 2019 UCF Grad (Bachelors, Civil Engineering) who follows the Miami Marlins & Dolphins. You can find him on Twitter @Mptness4 regularly tweeting about UCF Baseball.


  1. Susan Olson

    Excellent assessment of team prospects, with just the right amount of levity to keep it fun reading. How about more updates and suggestions for the team as the season progresses? Nobody knows baseball better than you.

  2. Tony Feudo

    Cup check! Great stuff, thanks Michael.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *