February 13, 2013

Spartans Set for Opening Weekend with Trio of Games

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: David Beall,
 dbeall@uscupstate.edu

GAME NOTES | LIVE STATS | ASUN.TV | PRESEASON VIDEO

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate baseball team opens the 2013 season this weekend, welcoming Niagara, Kentucky and Georgetown to Harley Park for three non-conference matchups.

The Spartans are set to battle Niagara Friday at 4 p.m. on ASun.TV, No. 15 Kentucky Saturday at 4 p.m. and Georgetown Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Leading Off

  • After winning a Division I program record 33 games last season, the Spartans return six position players, including defending A-Sun Player of the Year Gaither Bumgardner.
  • Upstate has been picked to finish third in the A-Sun Preseason Poll, receiving three first place votes and sitting just behind Mercer and FGCU, who tied for first.
  • The Spartans open the season with 13 of their first 16 games at home.
  • Head Coach Matt Fincher is in his 16th season at the helm of the Spartans, sporting 345 career victories.
  • The three opening-weekend starters for the Spartans combined to win 18 games last season.
  • The Spartans will host a mid-week contest next Wednesday against Presbyterian, before welcoming Georgia Washington to town for a three-game weekend series Feb. 22-24.

Quick Hits

  • The Spartans have won their season-opener each of the last three years and four of the past five seasons, while also winning the weekend series each of the last three years.
  • The Spartans will battle Niagara Friday, a team coming off a 19-29 season and picked to finish seventh in the nine-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Purple Eagles will look to MAAC Preseason Player of the Year Ryan McCauley to lead the charge in 2013.
  • Saturday features a rematch from last season, as the University of Kentucky comes to town as a consensus Top-15 team in the country, including as high as No. 8 according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason Top-40 Poll.
  • The Wildcats will turn to SEC Preseason Player of the Year and centerfielder Austin Cousino to guide the blue and white, while junior southpaw Corey Littrell will take the reins on the mound after being rated the 10th-best SEC prospect available for the 2013 MLB draft.
  • The Sunday weekend finale will feature Upstate against Georgetown University who was tabbed to finish 11th in the 12-team BIG EAST Conference. After finishing with 24 wins a season ago, the most for the program since 2006, the Hoyas will look to a pair of veteran pitchers to lead Georgetown in 2013. The senior duo of Neal Dennison and Charles Steinman combined to win eight games a season ago and tally four saves.
  • Three teams ranked in the preseason national polls are on tap for the Spartans in 2013, including South Carolina and Kentucky, which rank in the top 15 in every major poll in the country. The Gamecocks are ranked as high as No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, while Kentucky peaks at No. 8 in the Collegiate Baseball Rankings. Clemson also checks in at No. 27 in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Top 40 list, a team the Spartans battle May 14.

WHO'S HOT: Jordan Stampler enters the 2013 season having reached base in 22 consecutive games to end the 2012 season. He recorded a hit in 19 of those 22 games and ended the year with four doubles, 25 runs batted in and a .274 batting average. Stampler started in all 53 games for the Spartans at third base last year and will look to be a work horse for Upstate at the hot corner once again this season.

LEFT SIDE, STRONG SIDE: The left side of the infield proves to be one of the best in the A-Sun in 2013, as the Spartans return Jordan Stampler at third base and Brody Greer at shortstop, a duo that combined to start every game for Upstate last season. The defensive masters recorded 282 assists in 2012 and combined for 427 chances on the left side of the diamond. Stampler was responsible for six doubles plays, while Greer found himself in the middle of a twin killing 25 times.

FINCHER-ISMS: "This is the first time in a while that we have a core group of guys returning that have had some success and I would say at the start of the season we have a reason to be as optimistic about this season as any other season since I have been the head coach here."

"We have so many guys returning that we should have confidence, we have reason to have confidence, but this team is going to have to find its own identity and earn its own confidence."

PRESEASON PROPS: Harley Park will feature three preseason conference players of the year this weekend, as Upstate's Gaither Bumgardner (A-Sun), Kentucky's Austin Cousino (SEC) and Niagara's Ryan McCauley (MAAC) have all been named preseason player of the year by their respective conferences.

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