March 4, 2010

Upstate Ready For Visit From George Washington

March 4, 2010

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Riding a Division-I era best six game winning streak, the USC Upstate baseball team will wrap up an eight-game homestand with three games at Harley Park this weekend against George Washington. The Spartans will roll out three starters who are out to hot starts, as senior Matt Branham, junior Philip Brannon and sophomore Austin Moyer will each look for their second wins of the year and to battle for the team lead in strikeouts. Moyer currently leads the team with 13, but both Branham and Brannon are right behind with 11 punchouts.

There's a common link in the coaching matchup this weekend at Harley Park, as both the USC Upstate baseball team's head coach, Matt Fincher, and George Washington's chief, Steve Mrowka, both spent several years under the wing of John Kurtz at Georgia College & State University. Fincher served for five years under Kurtz from 1986-90. Mrowka came to the Bobcats the next year and assisted Kurtz for three seasons before taking over as head coach in 1994. He spent 11 years at GCS&U as head coach before moving on to George Washington in 2005.

Quick Hits
• Junior Jimmy Tanner is currently tied for 10th in school history with 192 hits, just three safeties from the ninth slot, where Eric Smith (1992-95) sits with 195 career hits ... He also needs to score two more times to become the 18th player in school history to reach 100 in a career.

• Sophomore Tyler Cook has an RBI in each of the last six games.

• Sophomore Jeff Medley posted a walk-off single in the ninth against Gardner-Webb on Wednesday ... He went 1-for-3 in his first action since missing the previous five games with an elbow injury.

• Three players new to the Upstate lineup are currently hitting better than .300, led by freshman Brody Greer, who is hitting .351. Junior Joe Barnes is hitting .333 and freshman Trey Richardson is also hitting .303.

• Freshman Brody Greer is on a seven-game hitting streak, hitting .375 (12-for-32) with six runs and one RBI in that time ... In his last four games, Greer has nine hits.

• Three Upstate freshmen left-handers, Chris Knauff, Scott DeCecco and Jordan Rusk, have combined to throw 13 innings and allow just one earned run, an ERA of 0.69.

Scouting George Washington
• George Washington has gotten out to a 3-4 start this season, last sweeping Coppin State in a doubleheader on Feb. 27, 16-3 and 11-4.

• Four players are hitting at least .400, led by Chris Luick, who is hitting .421 with seven runs and four doubles. Tom Zebroski adds a .419 average, 10 runs and a team-high 13 hits.

• Eric Cantrell has struck out 16 batters and posted a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings this year.

Walking Off
The Spartans seem to be back to their old ways of winning games in exciting fashion, as the team has posted two walk-off wins in the last week. First, a two-out single by freshman Brody Greer in the ninth helped Upstate down NJIT, 3-2, on Feb. 28 and then, a two-out single by sophomore Jeff Medley in the 12th helped Upstate down Gardner-Webb, 9-8, on March 3. USC Upstate's 2008 team made a living coming from behind, winning 17 of their 25 games in come-from-behind fashion and winning four more games that were tied in the eighth or ninth innings. While the Spartans did not match the frenzied pace of their 2008 season, the Spartans did have two walk-off wins. The Spartans have seven in the DI era.

Cookin'
Sophomore Tyler Cook, after hitting .176 as a redshirt freshman, has come to life at the plate in the past six games after connecting on his first homer against Georgia State on Feb. 23. Since that game, Cook has hit .481 with 13 hits, seven runs and 11 RBI, driving in at least one run in all six games. Cook posted two hits, two runs and three RBI on Feb. 23 against Georgia State before adding four hits and two RBI against Dayton on Feb. 27. Three more hits against Butler on Feb. 28 helped ensure him the Courtyard By Marriott Classic MVP honors and he followed that with three hits and two RBI against Gardner-Webb on March 3.

The K Zone
Senior Matt Branham has made leap after leap in his strikeouts during his career at USC Upstate, jumping from 39 strikeouts as a freshman to 57 as a sophomore before sitting down a school-record 82 as a junior. Now, Branham needs to break his own school record for single-season strikeouts to set the school record in career punchouts, needing 72 more strikeouts this season to reach the mark after punching out 11 in his first two outings.

Hitman
Senior Jimmy Tanner will look to pick up right where he left off in 2009, as he established career highs this season in nearly every offensive category, including hits (81), batting average (.354), runs (41), RBI (34), doubles (15), walks (28) and slugging percentage (.430). Tanner needs six hits to enter the top 10 in school history in career safeties, entering the weekend with 186 hits.

Young Arms
The Spartan pitching staff has been anchored so far this season by a bevy of freshman arms, with rookies accounting for 34.2 innings pitched, 30 strikeouts and just nine walks. The five freshman who have seen time on the mound thus far have also combined for a 1.82 ERA. The group has been led by Ryan Newell, who has a win and a save in relief. He has a 0.87 ERA through 10.1 innings and he has struck out 12. Chris Knauff is 1-0 with a 1.12 ERA in eight innings to go with five strikeouts and in 10.1 innings, Gaither Bumgardner has posted a 3.48 ERA to go with nine strikeouts and no walks. Left-handers Scott DeCecco and Jordan Rusk have pitched a combined six innings, striking out four and allowing one earned run.

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