Spartanburg, S.C. – USC Upstate junior right-handed pitcher Chad Sobotka became the 26th Spartan in school history to join the professional baseball ranks when he was selected in the fourth round by the Atlanta Braves Friday in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft.
Sobotka becomes the highest Spartan ever drafted in the MLB Draft, going two rounds earlier than former Upstate standout Steve Bird did when he was taken in the sixth round of the 1986 draft by the Cleveland Indians. Sobotka is also now the 13th Spartan under the directon of head coach Matt Fincher to play professionally.
"I was really nervous and really excited throughout the entire process," Sobotka said. "I was just watching the screen like everyone else and watching all the picks go by without seeing my name. I was starting to get really nervous. I heard from the Braves a few spots before I was picked and they told me they were going to select me, and then everyone kind of let loose once we saw my name come across the board. I am so excited and honored to be an Atlanta Brave."
Sobotka, who was tabbed as the 2014 Atlantic Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year, was sidelined for the entire season with a nagging back injury that prevented him from joining the Upstate starting rotation. Despite the injury, Sobotka proved to be one of the most dominating relievers during his two seasons in a Spartan uniform.
The Sarasota, Fla., native turned heads in his first season at Upstate by finishing the 2012 season with 12 saves, a 1.72 earned run average and 34 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .196 batting average in 31.1 innings of work. His 12 saves ranked second in the conference that season and were tied with Bradley Banks in 2006 for the most ever in a single season at Upstate. In addition, that mark is tied for 15th all-time in A-Sun history. He was rewarded at the end of the season as one only two players to earn a unanimous selection to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team.
"I'm very happy for Chad because I know how hard he worked to reach this point in his baseball career," Fincher said. "I know how disappointed he was this spring that he wouldn't be able to pitch at all this season, but what he did do what continue to rehab and work hard to make sure he would be in a position to pitch this summer. He is an outstanding prospect and I have every reason to believe that his baseball career is going to take off."
Sobotka continued his success in 2013 by appearing in a staff-best 26 games and ending the season with a 3.86 earned run average in 37.1 innings pitched. He finished the year tied for third in the A-Sun with seven saves en route to earning a spot on the All-Atlantic Sun second team. He entered the 2014 season tied for 11th all-time in A-Sun history and second at Upstate with 19 career saves.
"Chad is still a very young pitcher even though he has three years of college experience to his credit," Fincher added. "He certainly has a very fresh arm because he isn't your prototypical junior from a four-year college that has thrown a ton of innings during his career. He has a tremendous upside, maybe the most upside of anyone I have ever been around. He throws hard, has a good breaking ball and has a good feel for his changeup, so there is a lot there already and more to be developed in time."
Sobotka limited hitters to a .225 batting average in 2013 and paced the Upstate relievers with 45 strikeouts. He also ranked fourth in the conference with 20 games finished and featured an eight-game scoreless streaks that spanned 10.0 innings on the hill.
"I also want to thank USC Upstate for giving me an amazing experience that I will never forget," Sobotka said. "Upstate did everything for me since I stepped foot on campus as a freshman. They were the only team that recruited me, so I owe so much to coach Fincher and coach Rembert. I also had three different pitching coaches during my three years at Upstate, but I wouldn't be where I am today without them, so a big thank you goes to Dusty Blake, Andrew Wyant and Drew Saberhagen."