SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate baseball team has proven, even with the move to Division I, that it is not afraid of a challenge, and the 2010 season will be no exception, as the Spartans will play 32 of its 56 games in 2010 against teams that finished 2009 with non-losing records, 21 against teams with 30 or more wins, 18 against teams with an RPI of better than 100 and seven against teams that competed in the NCAA Regionals, as head coach Matt Fincher announced the schedule on Monday.
Upstate, celebrating its 25th season of play in 2010, will not stray from the path that Fincher has laid out for the team in its move to the Atlantic Sun Conference and Division I play. Once again, the team will find itself challenged every step of the way, beginning with a game against Appalachian State, which went 33-21 and finished 83rd in the RPI in 2009, on Feb. 20.
The Spartans will have a few more advantages up its sleeves in their schedule during the 2010 season, thanks mainly to 30 games in the friendly confines of Harley Park and no non-conference mid-week games more than three hours from the Spartanburg campus, heading only as far south as Charleston and as far north as Knoxville, Tenn.
Upstate will also continue to develop rivalries with traditional regional foes and powers, like the Atlantic 10’s Charlotte (at Charlotte, March 31; at Harley Park, April 6), the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Clemson (at Clemson, April 21), the Southern Conference’s The Citadel (at Charleston, March 10; at Harley Park, May 12) and the Southeastern Conference’s South Carolina (April 20, Columbia), and Tennessee (March 23, Knoxville). Upstate will also keep rivalries with the Big South’s Presbyterian (Feb. 20, Harley Park; Feb. 21, Clinton; April 7, Clinton), UNC Asheville (March 30, Harley Park; April 14, Asheville) and Gardner-Webb (March 3, March 24, Harley Park), all within an hour’s drive of Spartanburg, and Charleston Southern (March 9, Charleston; March 16, Harley Park).
The team will also start a few other non-conference relationships, including home-and-home agreements with SoCon power the College of Charleston (April 13, Harley Park; May 11, Charleston) and 2009 NCAA Regional participant Georgia State (Feb. 23, Atlanta; Feb. 24, Harley Park).
Fincher has also worked to keep developing the working relationship with Wofford for the Courtyard by Marriott Classic, a co-operative classic run by the two schools. This season, the tournament will occur on the second weekend of the season, from Feb. 26-28, with five games occurring in three days at Harley Park and Wofford playing four games at Russell C. King Field. The Spartans will host Dayton, NJIT and Butler during the tournament.
A reduction in the number of conference games from 30 to 27 in the 2010 season will also allow Upstate to play three more games at home, as the Spartans host George Washington for a three-game non-conference set on March 6-7. The Spartans will also play a two-game homestand to end the season on May 18-19 against the Colonial Athletic Association’s William & Mary.
The conference season favors Upstate this year as a mix of tough match-ups will head to Harley Park, as both the 2009 A-Sun Tournament champions and the two-time defending A-Sun regular season champions will visit Upstate. FGCU, the regular-season champs will kick off Upstate’s A-Sun season on March 12-13 while 2009 A-Sun Tournament champs Jacksonville visit on April 2-3. Also on Upstate’s home slate in A-Sun series are Campbell (April 16-17) and Kennesaw State (May 14-15).
The Spartans will hit the road five times for three-game A-Sun series, heading to ETSU (March 19-20), Belmont (March 26-27), North Florida (April 10-11), Mercer (April 23-24) and Stetson (May 7-8).
The Spartans return four starters and six pitchers from a squad that went 17-37 overall in 2009. The Spartans will be led by senior catcher Jimmy Tanner (Fayetteville, Ga./Starr’s Mill), who was an All-Star this summer in the Northwoods League, and senior Matt Branham (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley), who went struck out a school-record 82 batters in 82 innings before being drafted in the 47th round of the MLB draft by the Houston Astros in June.