Looking Good, Billy Ray! Feeling Good, Louis!

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ORLANDO - This is what a smidgen of success feels like. It's a bunch of confident, enthusiastic ballplayers conducting a crisp, efficient workout. There was no drudgery or pervasive duty-bound attitude at Jay Bergman Field on Thursday, but rather an air of positivity as the Owls prepared for their colossal series with UCF. This is what one gets when victories come more often than defeats, particularly when the last three losses have come by one run.

Perhaps the Owls have finally come to the realization that they are immensely talented, or perhaps they simply decided to put those collective talents into practice. Holes remain on their pitching staff and, while the offense has been sizzling since Jr. RF Chad Mozingo moved atop the order, there are a couple of critical hitters mired in slumps. But no team is perfect, and it appears as though the Owls recognize that their attributes outweigh their deficiencies. They seem to be having fun playing the game they fell hopelessly in love with as optimistic youth.

Sitting in the dugout at Bergman Field, it's easy to gain perspective on why the Knights are batting .342/.433/.528. Although the wind was blowing in, the distance marker on the right-field wall just inside the foul pole read 320, and perhaps that reading is generous. When the wind whips out to right baseballs will follow, which explains in part why seven of the Knights' eight .300 hitters are either lefthanded or switch-hitters. Theirs is a dangerous lineup fronted by Sr. LF Chris Duffy (.447/.522/.879 w/14 homers and 51 RBIs), one so potent from the left side that The OG is committed to turning all three of those switch-hitters around to the right side. That lineup is why So. LHP Taylor Wall might need to deliver a signature performance, why Jr. LHP Doug Simmons was prepped for action against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, why Fr. LHP Holt McNair will be called upon to provide stellar relief, and why Jr. LHP Abel Gonzales just might earn his second start of the season on Sunday afternoon. If Cole St.Clair had any eligibility remaining, you could best believe The OG would have offered CSC air fare to Central Florida.

"We're going to use up every ounce of lefthanded pitching we've got," The OG said.

The Owls will not require Cy Young-esque pitching to claim this series and remain atop the Conference USA standings. UCF is a poor pitching (5.85 ERA, .310 BAA, 1.71 WHIP) and defensive (.959 fielding percentage) squad. The Knights will attempt to use their cozy dimensions and a prevailing wind to bash their way to victory, but the Owls will have the same environs at their disposal. The same offense that has hit .371/.456/.563 w/16 homers over the last 12 games (not to mention a plus-71 runs advantage, 19-of-23 stolen bases and a 68-to-61 BB-to-K ratio) should have a field day against the Knights' staff and defense. And while UCF has produced gaudy stats against suspect competition (SoS: 183), the Owls have competed against the eighth-toughest schedule in the nation. They are battle-tested, and given the results of the past dozen games, riding a crest of confidence that should yield a desired result.

On Thursday night the Owls appeared to enjoy practice. There is no reason why they should not enjoy playing UCF this showdown weekend, even with stakes being as high as they are.

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MK, out of curiousity, did either Cingrani or Evers make the trip to Orlando, or are we relying on simply the proven quartet of southpaws (Wall, Gonzo, Simmons and McNair)? Unfortunately, given his bread and butter changeup, Wall is not your typical left-handed pitcher, as he usually fares better against free-swinging, aggressive, right-hand laden lineups. Having said all that, we need an ace-like performance from Taylor tonight, including going deep into the game to preserve the bullpen (and southpaws) for the remainder of the weekend.

Walt: Neither Cingrani nor Evers is here, so it's up to the aforementioned foursome. - MK

Thanks for the update MK. In prior years the wind seemed to blow in from left or left center making it a Herculean task to hit one out.

Observe the UCF version of the Tech Hecklers, what they lack in finesse, they make up in enthusiasm. They are also quick to share an adult beverage in the parking lot. One wish that the "left,right, left, right, SIT DOWN" after strike outs would have an alternative "cheer".

The first baseball secretary, Jackie, usually shows up for the UCF series. She probably was before your time. She is a nice person and always was helpful.

Funny that they will get a crowd of mostly football fans as they wait for their Spring game. If you really want to insult one of the locals, mention that USF would beat them in any sport...

Enjoy Olvedo (sp).

13thOwl: It was fun watching the righthanded batters attempt to hit balls out to left early last evening. From what I observed, balls are cut down as they approach the wall for Rendon nearly hit a ball into the lights before the ball took a sudden nosedive and landed just beyond what passes for a fence here. GDG (batting righthanded against David Pierce - UCF will start LHP Johnny Sedlock tonight) crushed two back-to-back. The first barely cleared the wall closer to the foul pole; the second was toward left-center and didn't get out at all. GDG was shocked. - MK

I forgot to mention that you deserve props for the headline. Now I am off to see someone about a $1 bet...

13thOwl: One dollar. - MK

Thanks for the insight on the team/facilities.

You putting together a crop report on how this year's winter is affecting the Florida orange harvest?

At Ease: The fact that no one could determine that one man was in a gorilla suit and another man was in an even more obvious gorilla suits still confounds me. - MK

So, what you are saying is...line drives and opposite field hitting are what is going to win the day?

Russell: Absolutely. With center being just 390, I'd imagine that the alleys aren't too deep. However, it would behoove the Owls to shoot those gaps anyway and go to right if Sedlock insists on pitching the righties away. If the wind is blowing in from left perhaps he tries to get in on the hands of Rendon, Rathjen, Hague, etc., and entices them with the idea of swinging for the shallow fences, but that's a risky proposition. - MK

High scores are the order of the weekend, it appears.

Will the OG turn on the green light for Owls on the basepaths this weekend?

TFW: The green light is always on for the Owls' most able base runners according to The OG. Given the Knights' defensive shortcomings, the Owls should be motivated to do whatever is necessary to make UCF make plays, and perhaps force miscues. - MK

After the LSU super regional, I had a chance to chat with Coach Graham. We both were in admiration of the way LSU got out of the box and hustled down to first always looking for a chance to take the extra base. Heck, they looked like they were enjoying themselves busting out of the box.

I noticed that lately, the Rice Owls seem to be taking the game to the opponent, and seem to be enjoying themselves more.

Too much rose colored glasses, or have you noticed the same?

13thOwl: No rose-colored glasses. I too believe this team has relaxed and is enjoying the game. - MK

Quote: GDG (batting righthanded against David Pierce) crushed two back-to-back. - MK

So, let me get this right, are you saying Diego Hitting> Pierce pitching?

13thOwl: Well, it was only BP, so I'm sure Pierce wasn't showing his nasty stuff. - MK

MK -- Really enjoy your broadcasts with JP, but I have a request. Can you talk a little louder? JP comes through just fine, but you are more soft-spoken.

owl-1983: Will do. - MK

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