FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The four-year seniors on this year’s USC Upstate baseball squad have already beaten 22 ranked opponents in their careers. The group of four players will no doubt get a few more chances to relish in the role of underdog this spring, as the 2009 USC Upstate baseball team will play a 56-game schedule that features bouts with 2008 NCAA Super Regional squad Coastal Carolina and NCAA Tournament squads Lipscomb, Charlotte and South Carolina, 12th-year head coach Matt Fincher announced on Thursday.
The Spartans will play 16 games against teams that posted 30-wins in 2009 and will take the field in 30 of their 56 games against teams that finished among the top 150 Division I teams in RPI, making the schedule one of the hardest in school history.
“Certainly when we set out the schedule, we want to build the best one possible,” Fincher said. “We want to play the highest quality teams possible. We think that by playing good competition, we will get better. Certainly, we have achieved that this year. This is, by far, the best schedule that this institution has ever played. It’s a pretty daunting task in front of us this spring.”
The Spartans will get a chance to host several quality opponents during a 28-game slate at Harley Park, including hosting Charlotte, who has won two straight Atlantic 10 Tournament titles, Stetson, a perennial contender for the Atlantic Sun Conference crown, Wofford, who won the 2007 Southern Conference Tournament title, and South Carolina, the first Southeastern Conference school to visit Harley Park.
“Certainly, the South Carolina game is a day that a lot of people will point to,” Fincher said. “We’re very appreciative of their willingness to come up here and play us because they certainly don’t have to. Hopefully, it will be an enjoyable night and a competitive game.”
Upstate starts the season as co-hosts of the Courtyard by Marriott Classic with Wofford College from Feb. 20-22. The Spartans will host two games a day at Harley Park, playing in the second game during the three-day tournament while the Terriers will play four home games at Russell C. King Field. Upstate starts the season with a 4 p.m. Friday game against the Colonial Athletic Association’s George Mason, which finished the 2008 season with a 30-25 overall record. After a Saturday game against SIU Edwardsville, the Spartans close the tournament with a 2 p.m. Sunday game against Virginia Tech. The Hokies will be the first Atlantic Coast Conference school to visit Harley Park.
“Hopefully, that first weekend tournament is something that we can continue to build on as we go through the years,” Fincher said. “We’re excited that Wofford is taking part in it. It’s growing. It’s a good opportunity to get a number of teams from out of the region in here to play.”
During the mid-week, the Spartans will travel to Gardner-Webb and Wofford to renew their local rivalries. They return home for a three-game series with Army, which won the 2008 Patriot League regular-season title, from Feb. 27 to March 1. During the mid-week, the Spartans host Charleston Southern before heading to Tennessee.
The Spartans then start their 30-game Atlantic Sun Conference schedule, hosting Belmont on March 6-7. The Spartans will play 15 A-Sun games in the friendly confines of Harley Park, also hosting Mercer (March 20-22), Stetson (April 3-4), ETSU (April 17-18) and North Florida (May 9-10). The Spartans travel for five A-Sun series, visiting Lipscomb (March 13-14), Jacksonville (March 27-28), Kennesaw State (April 10-11), FGCU (April 24-25) and Campbell (May 14-15).
In between the weekend A-Sun series, Upstate will play 16 mid-week games, highlighted by a March 11 game in Conway, S.C., against Coastal Carolina, the only team in South Carolina to win 50 games in 2008. The Spartans also travel to Clemson on March 18 for a 6:30 p.m. game against the perennial ACC favorites. Upstate also travels to Virginia Tech on March 24 and Wake Forest on April 7 for battles against ACC foes.
The Spartans will also play home-and-home dates with 2008 NCAA Regional teams South Carolina (April 21 at Harley Park; May 12 in Columbia) and Charlotte (March 17 at Harley Park; April 22 in Charlotte) along with 2007 NCAA Regional team Wofford (Feb. 26 at Wofford; March 25 at Harley Park). Upstate also plays home-and-home series with North Carolina A&T, Presbyterian and Gardner-Webb.
Upstate will also play two games in minor league facilities, as they travel to UNC Asheville (Class A Asheville Tourists) on April 14 and The Citadel on May 6 (Class A Charleston River Dogs).
Upstate, which finished 25-29 overall and 17-16 in the Atlantic Sun, finished over .500 in conference play for the first time since then-USC Spartanburg went 12-6 in the NAIA District Six in 1990. It finished tied for fifth in the conference and would have qualified for the six-team Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament field, but it is still in the first of its four years in the provisionary process in the transition to Division I, making it ineligible for postseason play.