FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Coaches will always say defense wins championships. Perhaps that’s why the USC Upstate baseball team loaded up its Class of 2009 recruiting class with the first line of defense on the diamond, at the pitching mound, with the team signing five versatile pitchers, including two potential two-way players, an infielder and an outfielder, in their initial Fall period signing class, recruiting coordinator Russell Triplett announced on Thursday.
“We are excited about the type of people that are coming. Not only are they talented but these guys exemplify great character and are genuinely good people,” Upstate assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Russell Triplett said. “As a whole, we think this group is going to continue to push us forward and get us where we want to be, competing for A-Sun Championships.”
Gaither Bumgardner (Fort Lawn, S.C./Great Falls), a 6-6, 195-pound right-handed pitcher, is a versatile athlete that will immediately bolster Upstate’s pitching depth. A pitcher/shortstop with Great Falls High School, Bumgardner batted .509, with 28 RBIs and four home runs en route to earning Class A All-State honors as a junior. He also earned Class A Region III Player of the Year honors in both 2007 and 2008. Bumgardner helped lead the Red Devils to a final ranking inside the top 10 in the state. He was also a finalist for the South Carolina “No Spit” All-Star of the Year award. Also active in club baseball, Bumgardner played with the Palmetto Sand Gnats in the summer. Also the Red Devils starting quarterback for the last two seasons, Bumgardner was an Honorable Mention All-Area selection while helping the Red Devils to the Class A state title game as a junior. As a senior, Bumgardner led the Red Devils to the second round of the Class A Division II playoffs, as the team finished with an 8-4 record.
“We like Gaither’s athletic ability,” Triplett said. “He has a chance to be a two-way guy for us. He is a hard-worker that is only going to get better for us here. There is a lot of upside to him.”
Brody Greer (Honea Path, S.C./Belton-Honea Path), a 6-1, 167-pound infielder, will give the Spartans added depth in the infield. An All-Western AAA Region selection at Belton-Honea Path, Greer earned the team’s Offensive MVP award as a junior. He helped the Bears win a school-record 26 games while hitting .351 with 27 runs, eight doubles, a triple, three homers and 32 RBIs. On the mound, Greer went 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA, striking out 24 and walking 18 in 33.2 innings. Greer is also active in summer baseball, playing with the Blue Chip Bulls. He also played with the Northwest team during the Palmetto Games, a two-day showcase at South Carolina’s Sarge Frye Field.
“Brody is a versatile player that can play any infield position,” Triplett said. “I think he’s made the biggest jump from junior to senior year and we think he’ll push the guys we have here.”
Bobby Jackson (Gaffney, S.C./Gaffney), a right-handed pitcher, will bring his 91-mile-per-hour fastball and above-average curveball to USC Upstate next fall. Jackson was the ace of the Gaffney American Legion team that made its first appearance in the Southeast Regionals in 2007, posting a perfect 8-0 record. Jackson pitched plenty of big games for the American Legion team, including a complete-game against Irmo that kept Post 109 in the 2008 playoffs. He also played with the Northeast team during the Palmetto Games, a two-day showcase at South Carolina’s Sarge Frye Field.
“I think the best thing he has going for him is that he competes,” Triplett said. “ He’s not afraid of the big game and he’s not afraid of big-time competition.”
Chris Knauff (Marietta, Ga./Walton), a 6-2, 160-pound left-handed pitcher, helped lead Walton High to a 29-9 overall record in Georgia’s Class AAAAA, as the Raiders fell in the state finals to Brookwood. However, Knauff took the mound in the second game of the finals and struck out the side in the top of the seventh inning. Also active in summer baseball, Knauff played with the prestigious East Cobb Baseball Club program, earning a slot at the 2007 SE Underclass Showcase.
“He’s a three-pitch guy that knows how to pitch,” Triplett said. “As his body physically matures, he has a chance to be a really good pitcher for us.”
Trevor Leonard (Lexington, N.C./Central Davidson), 6-0, 165-pound catcher, earned Central Carolina 2-A All-Area honors as a junior. At the plate, Leonard hit .390 with 24 RBIs and he also stole seven bases to earn the team’s MVP award. A player that has a chance to also make an impact on the mound, Leonard finished with a 5-0 record and 2.01 ERA. Also a guard on Central Davidson’s boys’ basketball team, Leonard earned Davidson County Dispatch All-Dispatch honors as a junior after averaging 11.5 points per game. Leonard also earned all-conference and all-county honors. Active in summer baseball, Leonard attended the North Carolina Blue-Grey Classic and showcases at both Appalachian State and Mt. Olive.
“He’s a potential two-way guy that is very athletic,” Triplett said. “He can help us on the mound or behind the plate.”
Tyler Miller (Fort Mill, S.C./Fort Mill), a 5-10, 165-pound outfielder, will give the Spartans needed depth across the board. As a junior, he earned All-Upper South Carolina honors from the Charlotte Observer. A speedy player, Miller was invited to the Team USA Youth National Team Trials as a sophomore. At the time, Miller was only the second player from South Carolina to be invited to the trials. He also played with the Northeast team during the Palmetto Games, a two-day showcase at South Carolina’s Sarge Frye Field.
“He’s a right-handed hitting outfielder that should come in and can make an immediate contribution,” Triplett said. “He’s a runner and will be able to help offensively.”
Ryan Newell (Marietta, Ga./Marietta), a 6-2, 175-pound right-handed pitcher, comes to the Spartans after a successful prep career in Georgia. Invited to the 2008 Prefect Game Top Prospect Showcase, Newell topped out in the high-80s with his fastball. He finished his junior season with a 3-1 record and a 0.70 ERA. Playing with the East Cobb Braves, one of the best club showcase teams in the nation, Newell’s fastball touched out in the low 90s. He was also named the MVP of the East Cobb organization. Also active with the Blue-Grey Classic Showcase, Newell also played shortstop with Marietta.
“He’s a guy that should make an immediate impact on the mound,” Triplett said. “He has prepared by playing against some of the best competition in the country.”
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.