Written by Brandon Helwig on February 13, 2014 | UCFsports.com
Skoglund ready for opening Knight
SARASOTA, Fla. – Eric Skoglund says you'll see a different pitcher when he takes the mound Friday as UCF's 'Opening Knight' starter against Siena.
The junior left-hander from Sarasota is the first to admit his first two years didn't go as planned. A 16th-round draft pick out of high school, Skoglund was plagued with command and consistency issues - he fell out of the weekend rotation a year ago - but believes he's turned the corner with another year of experience under his belt. That includes a productive summer in the Cape Cod League pitching against some of college baseball's top hitters.
"I think it's being more consistent with all my off-speed and being able to attack hitters," Skoglund said of his improvement since last season. "A lot of it is confidence as well. I didn't have much last year. I struggled a lot. I came back here from the Cape, worked on some stuff like my off-speed, and it's been pretty good."
Coach Terry Rooney says Skoglund has made "tremendous strides" from a season ago, emerging as the clear leader among the staff following a string of impressive outings dating back to fall practice.
"It's always been there for him," Rooney said. "Eric was a draft pick out of high school. He's got the body, got the frame, has everything. He's one of the hardest-working pitchers I've ever been around in my entire career... He's made huge strides in the fall and preseason. The biggest thing he needs to do this year form the past is command of the strike zone. That's the biggest thing. It's plagued him a little bit from an inconsistency standpoint his first two years. The moment he got back from summer ball, to the middle of fall, to his last outing on Friday night, his command has been tremendous."
Skoglund joins an esteemed group of UCF Opening Day starters, a list that includes the likes of Justin Pope (2001), Matt Fox (2004), Tim Bascom (2006) and Ben Lively (2013).
"I'm really honored," Skoglund said. "It's a lot of hard work to get to where I am now. I'm very excited, especially for Friday night. It's always what I've been dreaming of and what I've been working for."
Skoglund says he learned a lot from Lively, who is now a rising star in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
"I actually roomed with Ben on away trips," Skoglund said. "(He taught me about) cleaning your mind and separating each pitch. Control what you can control. Just being repetitive in everything I do."
Skoglund is looking forward to Opening Knight, but also for the opportunity for redemption. As the Saturday starter in last year's opening series against Siena, Skoglund walked four of the first six batters and gave up three runs in the first inning. The Knights would go on to lose, 7-4.
It's a memory that's lingered.
"I'm ready for Friday night," Skoglund said. "I've worked hard to get to where I am right now. A lot of preparation, especially for this week. I want to start off right and get this team rolling. I'm ready for Siena."
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