The USC Upstate baseball team was picked to finish in seventh place in a recent vote by the Atlantic Sun Conference head coaches, it was announced by the league office on Wednesday.
2014 NCAA Super Regional participant Kennesaw State is predicted to win the league and garnered six first place votes and 61 total points. Florida Gulf Coast was picked second with one first place vote followed by Lipscomb in third with one first place vote.
Guided by 18th-year head coach Matt Fincher, Upstate returns four starters and 12 pitchers from last season, which includes senior second baseman Erik Samples. Samples hit .294, ranked eighth in the league with 17 doubles, drove in 33 runs and hit two home runs. The Hampton, S.C., native also served as one of the top relievers on the team, going 5-3 with a 1.71 earned run average in 21.0 innings of work.
First baseman Zach Krider enters his sophomore season coming off a debut year that saw him hit .255 with 50 hits, eight doubles, two home runs, 23 runs scored and 26 RBIs. Outfielder Stephen Dowling posted a .240 average in 2014 to go along with eight doubles and 25 runs batted in.
Senior right-hander Dylan Parker emerged as one of Upstate’s top pitchers in 2014 and featured a stretch where he allowed no more than one earned run in four of five appearances. Additionally, Parker turned in a complete game victory over NCAA Super Regional participant College of Charleston for his first win of the season. He closed the year strong by allowing just one run in seven innings in a victory at Stetson.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season,” Fincher said. “Practice has gone well to this point and we’re real pleased with how our players are progressing. I’m very hopeful and optimistic we will show an improved offense and defense, and I am looking forward to a competitive season.”
Upstate raises the curtain on the 2015 season Feb. 13 when the Spartans host Dayton in the first of 34 games inside the friendly confines of Harley Park.
The USC Upstate Athletic Department will also host the first-ever Groundhog Day Luncheon to mark the start of the 2015 baseball and softball seasons Feb. 2 at 11:30 a.m. in the Campus Life Center Ballroom. Tickets cost $15 for general public and $8 for all USC Upstate faculty, staff, students and former players. For more ticket information or to purchase tickets, please contact Nathan Dixon by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (854) 503-5865.
A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll
- Kennesaw State (6) 61
- Florida Gulf Coast (1) 55
- Lipscomb (1) 48
- North Florida 38
- Jacksonville 31
- Stetson 29
- USC Upstate 14
- Northern Kentucky 12