By Derik Vanderford firstname.lastname@example.org
February 17, 2014
UNION — The USC Union Bantams club baseball team is ready for its season opener this weekend.
The USC Union Bantams will officially start off the season with games against Gray Military Academy at 1 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23, at the Timken Sports Complex. The teams will play a total of four games, with doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday.
This week, Bantams moved up to No. 6 in the 2014 NCBA DII Week 12 Rawlings Top 15 Poll, and Christian Smith, NCBA Vice President of Division II Baseball Operations/Team Development, made a bold prediction regarding this season’s Bantams team.
“A lot of new teams came on board this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a postseason berth or even World Series appearance by a first-year program like LSU or Notre Dame,” Smith said. “If I had to pick, I’d take USC Union to win it all.”
The Bantams came out in 2013 with an impressive first season, winning their division — which was District IV East — and ranking No. 4 in the nation out of 105 schools. The Bantams were second place in their conference, being defeated in the conference championships by Kennesaw State, who went on to win the World Series.
“Overall, we have improved as a team from last year,” said Coach Paul Wilkes. “We have excellent team speed, and we hit the ball very well — and with power.”
Wilkes said the biggest question mark going into the season will be pitching.
“We have an excellent pitching staff, but so many are unproven, with no game experience,” Wilkes said.
For 2014, the Bantams have been moved to the District III West division, in which they join Tennessee, Armstrong Atlantic, and Furman.
Wilkes said he and the players hope the stands will be full at Timken Sports Complex for the team’s first home game against Gray Military this weekend.
“Not only do the fans help support the game-day atmosphere, but they also support us financially throughout the year,” Wilkes said, explaining that gate profits are split 50/50 with the Timken Sports Complex.
Gate admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors, and free for ages 10 and under. Funds raised will go toward van rentals, lodging, food, uniforms and equipment. Other ways for the team to raise money will include sponsorships of team calendars and game programs. The team is currently looking for local businesses to sponsor either of those. Anyone who is interested in sponsoring the team may contact Paul Wilkes or Annie Smith at (864) 429-8728 (USCU).
USC Union Bantams 2014 Spring Schedule
Feb. 22-23 — Gray Military at USC Union (DH)
Feb. 28 — USC Union at Clemson
Mar. 1 — Clemson at USC Union
Mar. 15-16 — Gray Military at USC Union (DH)
Mar. 29-30 — Tennessee at USC Union (DH)
Apr. 5-6 — USC Union at Armstrong Atlantic (DH)
Apr. 12-13 — Furman at USC Union (DH)
Apr. 26-27 — Methodist at USC Union (DH)
May 2-4 — Playoffs in Martinsville, Va.