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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Following one of the most successful careers in the history of the USC Upstate baseball program, right-handed pitcher Gaither Bumgardner was selected Saturday in the 23rd round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft by the New York Mets.
The Fort Lawn, S.C., native finished his prolific collegiate campaign last month, leading the Spartans to their first Division I postseason win in program history and landing on the A-Sun All-Tournament team.
"Gaither has been working for this moment a really long time and he is certainly deserving," said USC Upstate Head Coach Matt Fincher. "I have every reason to believe he can be successful at the next level."
After excelling at the plate during his junior season and earning A-Sun Player of the Year honors, Bumgardner became one the league's top pitchers in 2013, posting a 5-2 record with a 4.25 earned run average.
With Upstate facing elimination in the A-Sun Championship last month, Bumgardner turned in a performance for the ages against 23rd-ranked and top-seeded Mercer, tossing 8.0 innings with nine strikeouts and allowing just one earned run to send the Spartans to their second victory over a ranked opponent at the Division I level. The Bears would eventually earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"He has a chance to improve with time and I think that makes him a very interesting selection," Fincher said. "I don't think he has topped out at this point in his career and with his work ethic, he will continue to get better."
The two-time Atlantic Sun First-Team All-Conference selection lasted at least 7.0 innings in six of his last eight starts on the year, and recorded 52 strikeouts in 68.0 innings of work.
To go along with his repertoire on the mound, Bumgardner has been equally impressive at the plate, posting a .376 batting average during his junior season with 12 doubles and three triples, while hitting .354 during his senior campaign, including 34 hits over his final 19 collegiate games.
As the anchor for Upstate during its transition to the Division I level in the Atlantic Sun Conference, Bumgardner has led the Spartans to 61 wins over the last two seasons, a second place regular season finish in 2012 and a berth in the semifinals of the A-Sun Championship in 2013.
"We were really fortunate to have him part of the Upstate program," Fincher continued. "He did a lot of different things for us and has been right in the middle of everything we have done the last four years. He is definitely one of the best players to ever play at USC Upstate."