Spartans Look To Snap Slump In Music City
March 25, 2010
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - After just one game back in Spartanburg, the USC Upstate baseball team will hit the road again for the Volunteer State, wrapping up a stretch of seven games in nine days in the home of country music, heading to Belmont for a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference set this weekend. The Spartans are looking to change their fortunes and shake off a 14-game losing streak, the longest since a 16-game streak in 2001-02, and will turn to its weekend rotation of junior Philip Brannon, freshman Scott DeCecco, and senior Matt Branham to keep the Bruins, who have lost nine of their last 12 games.
Upstate has won one of three games in each of the last two years against Belmont, including a thrilling 6-4 win over the Bruins on April 26, 2008, when Mike Colecchi provided the game-winning hit in the 11th inning. The all-time series between the two schools is tied at four.
Junior Jimmy Tanner is currently fifth in school history with 212 career hits and 17th with 107 runs ... Tanner is 29 hits from the school-record of 241 set by former teammate John Caddell (2004-07).
Sophomore Austin Liput went 7-for-16 (.438) with two runs and an RBI against ETSU last weekend ... His five hits during the first game of Saturday's doubleheader was only the third five-hit game by a Spartan in the D-I era.
Senior Tyler Oliver is currently fifth in school history with 67 career appearances ... He is one appearance from fourth and 10 from the school record of 77 set by former teammate Dennis McCraney (2006-09).
Senior Matt Branham is second in the A-Sun with 37 strikeouts and he is averaging 11.10 punchouts per nine innings, which is also 41st nationally.
Senior Brian Dempsey went 5-for-7 with a double, a run and three RBI in two games against Belmont in 2009 ... Senior Jimmy Tanner also hit .500 with a homer and four runs and sophomore Jeff Medley hit .455 with a homer and four RBI against the Bruins.
The seven through nine hitters posted six hits, four runs and two RBI on Wednesday against Gardner-Webb, thanks to two hits each from junior Blake Green, freshman Gaither Bumgardner and senior Brian Dempsey.
Freshman Brody Greer is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with two doubles, two runs and four RBI in the last five games.
Belmont enters the weekend with a 13-9 overall record and a 2-4 mark in the A-Sun. The Bruins beat Lipscomb in two of three games last weekend, but dropped midweek games to Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech entering the series with Upstate.
Matt Hamann pitched nine scoreless innings in three relief appearances to earn the Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Week award last week. He was credited with one win and made two perfect appearances, allowing no runs, no walks, two hits, and striking out 11 through a total of nine innings last week.
Dylan Craig is fourth in the A-Sun with a .451 batting average. He is second in the league in hits with 41 and also fourth in runs scored with 27.
The Bruins have the highest team ERA in the A-Sun at 7.97, but they hit .329 as a team.
Sophomore Tyler Cook, after hitting .176 as a redshirt freshman, has come to life as a sophomore. The 6-2 Bloomington, Illinois, native leads Upstate in just about every category, including hitting .374 (34-for-91), scoring 18 runs and driving in 17 runners. For good measure, his five stolen bases is also tops on the team. Cook, who didn't even drive in a run as a freshman, has driven in multiple runners in a team-high five games and he also leads the team with 10 multiple-hit games. Cook has also reached base at least once in each of the last 13 games.
Senior Jimmy Tanner became the eighth player in school history to reach 200 career hits on March 13 against Florida Gulf Coast. Tanner, who now has 212 career hits, passed Todd Ellison (1987-90, 200), Andrew Runion (2005-08, 201) and Brent Hess (1998-01, 202) during the two games of the doubleheader, going 5-for-9 with five runs in the games. He also became the 18th player in school history to reach 100 career runs with his second of five runs in the games.
Tanner, a lifetime .322 hitter, is currently hitting .356 with five doubles and 15 RBI, all of which are second on the Spartans.
The K Zone
Senior Matt Branham has made leap after leap in his strikeouts during his career at USC Upstate, jumping from 39 strikeouts as a freshman to 57 as a sophomore before sitting down a school-record 82 as a junior. Now, Branham needs to break his own school record for single-season strikeouts to set the school record in career punchouts, needing 46 more strikeouts this season to reach the mark after punching out 37 in his first six outings. With his first strikeout against FGCU on March 12, Branham passed Brandon Williams (2003-06) for second in school history with 202 career strikeouts.
Branham, who has struck out 215 batters in his career, has also reached the top 10 in several other categories, including games started (3rd, 43), innings pitched (3rd, 262.0), shutouts (3rd, 1), lowest ERA (5th, 3.92), and wins (9th, 12).
Sophomore Austin Liput posted five hits in the first game of a doubleheader with ETSU on March 20, with the Spartan infielder, finishing the game 5-for-6 in just the third five-hit game in the D-I era, joining Jimmy Tanner, who posted five hits against Army in 2009, and Andrew Runion, who reached the mark against Kennesaw State in 2008. Liput posted three singles and two doubles in the game. After hitting .177 with six RBI in 27 games as a freshman, Liput has already posted 11 runs, nine RBI, five doubles and is currently hitting .290 this season.
Three USC Upstate players are currently among the top four in the Atlantic Sun Conference in triples, with Gaither Bumgardner currently tied for the league lead with three three-baggers. Bumgardner, who has hit triples against NJIT (2/28), at The Citadel (3/10) and FGCU (3/16), is currently tied for the Division I-era record with three triples with Kyle Simpson, Eric Guillen and Ryan Wilkins, who all reached the mark in 2009. Freshman Brody Greer and junior Joe Barnes are right behind with two triples, as the Spartans, with 11 3-baggers this year, are just four from the mark set in all of 2009. Chris Sturgill set the school-record with eight triples in 1988.