April 22, 2010

Spartans Set For Three-Game Set At Mercer

April 22, 2010

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. - A week after playing the team with the highest average in the Atlantic Sun Conference, the USC Upstate baseball team will face the most powerful offense in the league when it heads to Mercer for a three-game set at Claude Smith Field in Macon, Ga., this weekend. The Bears, who lead the A-Sun with 61 homers and 362 runs scored, are led by Jacob Tanis, who leads the league in homers (18) and RBI (68). Meanwhile, Upstate will counter with its own-record breaker in senior Jimmy Tanner, who set the school's career hits record with a single at South Carolina on Tuesday and now is just six hits away from becoming the first Spartan to reach 250 hits in a career.

Quick Hits
• Senior Tyler Oliver is currently tied for the school record with 77 career appearances ... He is just one more away from setting the school record, passing former teammate Dennis McCraney (2006-09).

• Senior Tyler Oliver has established a new career-high for saves in a season (4) and his seven career saves are now tied for sixth in school history.

• Senior Jimmy Tanner has started 129 consecutive games for the Spartans since not finding his name in the lineup for the second game of a doubleheader at UNF on March 22, 2008 ... Tanner's streak is the longest since Chris Nowak started all 161 games in his three-year career from 2002-04.

• Since breaking out of a 2-for-23 slump, junior Joe Barnes has gone 22-for-53 (.415) with 12 runs and six RBI in the last 13 games.

• Upstate is hitting .316 as a team in the last seven games, averaging 6.0 runs per game in that time, as two players are hitting better than .500 in that period, led by senior Jimmy Tanner (.517) and junior Andre Harris (.500) ... Three others are hitting better than .300.

• Senior Jimmy Tanner is currently ninth in the A-Sun with a .389 batting average, tops amongst catchers in the league ... He is also tied for seventh with 64 hits and sixth with a .485 on-base percentage.

• The Spartans lead the A-Sun with 17 triples this year ... Freshman Gaither Bumgardner and freshman Brody Greer are both tied for third with four three-baggers.

• The Spartans have come-from-behind for wins in eight of their 13 victories, falling behind at some point in the game before coming back to win ... The team also has three walk-off wins.

Scouting The Opponent - Mercer
• Mercer enters the weekend with a 23-19 overall record and it sits in a three-way tie for sixth place in the A-Sun with a 7-8 record after winning its last three games, two against ETSU and one at Georgia State ... The Bears are fighting with Belmont and Kennesaw State for the six-seed in the A-Sun Tournament.

• Mercer is led by one of the best players in the A-Sun in Jacob Tanis, who enters the series hitting .372 with 16 doubles and A-Sun-leading numbers of 18 homers, 68 RBI and 51 runs.

• Michael Langley is also hitting .398 with 70 hits, 15 doubles, three homers and 28 RBI ... The Bears lead the conference with 61 homers, as John Moreland also has 13 on the season.

• David Teasley has been the team's top pitcher from the bullpen, posting a 4-1 record and 3.88 ERA in 48 2/3 innings with a team-high 51 strikeouts.

The Anatomy of a Record
With his line single to left-center against South Carolina on April 20, senior Jimmy Tanner left no doubt that he stands among the best hitters in school history, as he set the school's career record for hits with his 242nd career hit. Tanner, a lifetime .334 hitter, is currently hitting a team-best .386 with nine doubles and 26 RBI, both of which are amongst the team's leaders.

Here is an in-depth look at the anatomy of the record and how Tanner has collected his now 244 career hits:
244 Hits = 37 (freshman) + 63 (sophomore) + 80 (junior) + 64 (senior)
244 Hits = 207 singles + 30 doubles + 1 triple + 6 home runs.
244 Hits = 69 one-hit games + 46 two-hit games + 23 three-hit games + 1 four-hit game + 2 five-hit games.
244 Hits = 177 vs. right-handed pitchers + 67 vs. left-handed pitchers.
244 Hits = 92 to left side + 67 to middle + 85 to right side.
244 Hits = 202 to outfield + 42 infield hits.
244 Hits = 20 as No. 2 hitter + 144 (No. 3) + 6 (No. 4) + 33 (No. 5) + 21 (No. 6) + 7 (No. 7) + 9 (No. 8) + 4 (No. 9).
244 Hits = 183 as catcher + 9 as first baseman + 52 as DH.

OT For TO
Senior Tyler Oliver had the most spectacular week of a career that is nearing record-breaking territory for the Spartans last week, as he had a key role in all four of Upstate's wins, earning one win and posting three saves as he moved within one appearance of the school-record of 77. He also moved all the way into a tie for fifth in the A-Sun with four saves and into a tie for sixth in school history with seven career saves. Oliver pitched two innings of relief in 11-10 win over College of Charleston, allowing a run and two hits, but striking out two and keeping Upstate close enough to rally for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to earn the win on April 13. He entered a 9-6 win over UNC Asheville with one out in the ninth and two runners on, but threw just two pitches to get a groundball double play for the save and followed that by tossing a scoreless ninth in 6-5 win over Campbell on Friday night, allowing just one hit, but not letting the runner past first base. He added another save with 4-3 win over Campbell on Saturday, earning the save with two innings of relief, allowing one run on three hits. He saved the game with two outs in the eighth by covering the plate to get the out on a bizarre finish to a double steal attempt, keeping Upstate's 4-3 lead, then tossed a scoreless ninth, striking out one and getting two fly outs to end his week.

Walking Off
The Spartans seem to be back to their old ways of winning games in exciting fashion, as the team has posted three walk-off wins this season and they trailed in six of their 11 wins. Freshman Brody Greer singled in the ninth with two outs to help Upstate down NJIT, 3-2, on Feb. 28 and a two-out single by sophomore Jeff Medley in the 12th helped Upstate down Gardner-Webb, 9-8, on March 3. Junior Andre Harris added the third walk-off hit with a bases-loaded two-out single in the ninth in an 11-10 win over the College of Charleston on April 13. 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 eight in the DI era.

Cookin'
Even after missing nearly two weeks with a bruised hand, sophomore Tyler Cook has not stopped hitting. He came back to the lineup by going 2-for-4 with two RBI against the College of Charleston on April 13 and then added two runs against UNC Asheville. After hitting .176 as a redshirt freshman, Cook has come to life as a sophomore. The 6-2 Bloomington, Illinois, native is among Upstate's leader in just about every category, hitting .331 (45-for-136) with 25 runs, both of which are second on the team and he leads the team with three homers and 27 RBI. For good measure, his five stolen bases is also tops on the team. Cook, who didn't even drive in a run as a freshman, has driven in multiple runners in a team-high seven games and he also is third on the team with 12 multiple-hit games.