Upstate and Wofford Win Opening Weekends
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
That quote from the movie “Moneyball” came to mind as I approached Cleveland S. Harley Park at USC Upstate Friday afternoon. The wind may have been whooping so hard it could make your cheeks rosy and your lips chap up in less than 5 minutes. But, the fact of the matter is, I did not care. Baseball. Was. Back. The chill in the air and the muddy ground was not going to hamper things.
Both USC Upstate and Wofford opened their seasons on Friday afternoon at home. The Spartans played the first of a 3 game set with the Towson University Tigers, while the Terriers hosted the Southern Illinois Salukis.
Let’s dive into what happened in each game.
USC Upstate– One of the things Mike McGuire has touted about his up and coming program entering year 4 of his tenure has been good pitching/pitching depth and a balanced offense. Both of those 2 things made a world of difference in the Spartans’ season opener.
Junior righty Reese Dutton got the nod for his first game in a USC Upstate uniform, and was absolutely dominant through 6 innings. On just 85 pitches, he didn’t issue any free passes, struck out 6, and only surrendered 4 hits, earning the win.
The relief pitching was also solid for the Spartans. Sophomore right hander Jake Cubbler fanned 2 while surrendering the lone run of the game on 3 hits with no walks in 2 innings. Sophomore righty Trent Hodgdon struggled through ⅔ of an inning, walking 2 and striking out a pair before being taken down for sophomore lefty Al Holguin, who closed it out with a K on 5 pitches.
The offense took 2 innings to get going. Junior outfielder Daniel Gernon led off with a single and advanced to 3rd on back to back wild pitches. Cole Caruso grounded out to short to score him. That 1 run would be it until the 5th inning.
Upstate plated 2 in the 5th and hung a 4 spot in the 6th, and the Spartans went on to win 7-1.
Junior Outfielder Daniel Gernon tallied 2 hits in 3 plate appearances, including a double, 2 singles, a walk, and 2 RBIs. Junior Catcher/Outfielder Koby Kropf went 1-3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored. Junior Outfielder J.D. Brock was 1 for 3 with a double, and an RBI. Sophomore Designated Hitter Noah Sullivan went 1-3 with a single, a walk, and 2 runs scored. Cole Caruso and Adam Grob logged a pair of RBIs each.
Wofford– The Terriers feature a very different look than they did a year ago. Designated Hitter Brennen Dorighi graduated and transferred to Iowa. Catcher Lawson Hill, who finished his 5th year in 2022 moved on. Outfielder Nolen Hester graduated and transferred to Texas Tech. Infielder John Dempsey graduated.
Sophomore outfielder David Wiley, Junior 3rd baseman Dixon Black, Senior Catcher Cameron Gill, and Junior DH Andrew Calhoun all made a start in game one against Southern Illinois, joining veteran returners Trey Yunger, shortstop Jack Renwick, 2nd baseman Brice Martinez, 1st baseman Ryan Galanie, and Center Fielder Marshall Toole.
Todd Interdonato and his staff opted to start senior righty Matthew Marchal, who was a solid #2/#3 starter for the Terriers a year ago. Marchal came out attacking the zone early on. But, it did not fare out well as the Salukis jumped on him early. He surrendered 3 home runs – a solo blast to right, a 2 run shot to straightaway center, and a 2 run bomb that was absolutely tattooed out of left.
Despite the rough start in which Marchal officially just logged 1 inning, the bullpen was phenomenal. The Terriers rolled out 4 relievers to work the next 8 innings, in which they surrendered just 2 runs on another home run with 4 hits and 1 walk with 6 strikeouts. The most impressive performance, in spite of giving up a 2 run homer, was from Freshman righty Champ Davis. He stopped the bleeding after entering in relief of Matthew Marchal and logged the first shutout frame and the first 3 up 3 down inning of the night for the Terriers.
The Terriers’ potent offense that featured a lot of putting the ball in play and putting pressure on the opposing defense using their speed from a year ago struggled to get going tonight, which could partially be attributed to the fact they were playing from behind. But one other factor was that the new guys just did not produce at the plate. The returners went a combined 6-16 with 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 2 RBIs. The “new guys” went a combined 1 for 14 at the dish with 2 walks and an RBI with 4 K’s.
Maybe it was the first game jitters. Maybe it was just too dang cold. Who knows? One thing you cannot do even though every baseball fan likes to, is read too much into opening day. Time will tell if the Terriers are going to have to endure growing pains this year or if they will get back to their typical form.
The weather was much less like late football season and much more ideal for baseball on Saturday afternoon with sun, a brisk breeze, and no need for 6 layers just to avoid shivering. Although it was still a tad cool, that did not make for cold bats for either the Spartans or Terriers.
Upstate- I could almost copy and paste what was said above about Friday’s opener in regards to pitching instead of trying to say something about it.. Pitching is something Mike McGuire was excited about entering this season. That well-founded excitement was once again the difference maker in this game.
Game 2 of the series between the Spartans and Tigers featured redshirt Senior right hander Chase Matheny on the bump. Matheny was mostly a bullpen arm a year ago, being called on in 21 of his 23 appearances. He started in just 2 games, but in his body of work last season, he struck out 36 in 41 innings pitched with a 2-0 record and 2 saves. In short, he was ideal for short outings/spot starts/”opens” and long relief appearances.
Today, Matheny remained as effective as his 2022 stats look. Things got off to a less than ideal start. The Towson leadoff man started the game reaching on one of 2 errors made in the game by Spartan first baseman Johnny Sweeney. The very next man deposited a 2 run homer to center to give the Tigers the early lead. In spite of that, Matheny kept his composure and limited Towson to just the 2 runs for the remainder of his outing.
Chase went 4.2 innings, and in spite of surrendering 7 hits, 6 of which were singles, he walked just 1 and struck out 3 with only 1 earned run.
Pitching depth may be something the Spartans boast more of this season, but they did not end up using much of it in this game. Sophomore righty Noah Sullivan came in to relieve Matheny and was very sharp. He pitched 3 and a third scoreless frames, with just 2 hits and 2 free passes, earning him the win. Junior right hander Nate Thomas finished the game with 1 inning of shutout ball, although not without a threat.
Towson got their leadoff man on with a single. After a flyout to center, the next hitter grounded to short, but the Spartrans couldn’t get the force play at 2nd. There was only one play on a grounder to 2nd, and that was at first, moving both runners into scoring position with 2 out. But, Thomas got out of the jam with a flyout to left to secure the win.
The Spartans’ offense was held in check by solid pitching by Towson. Starter Nate Nabholz did a great job of using his effective curveball and mixing in his fastball and slider, coaxing a lot of swings and misses and ground ball outs. He attacked the bottom of the zone effectively, and in his 3 and a third innings, Nabholz struck out 5 Upstate hitters.
The Spartans finally got their bats going in the latter middle innings after mustering just a run through the first 5. Daniel Gernon got things started when he got hit in the back to lead off the bottom of the 6th. His speed came in handy as he went 1st to 3rd on a Noah Rabon single, Koby Kropf tied the game with a fielder’s choice back to the mound where a split second of indecisiveness cost Towson pitcher Brett Seils and Gernon scored.
After a Towson call to the bullpen, Troy Hamilton laid down a squeeze bunt towards the 3rd base side of the mound. The pitcher came down to get it, but stumbled and could not make a play, giving Upstate the 3-2 lead. They added one more on a wild pitch before the biggest blow of the game that capped the 6 run rally.
With 2 out and 2 on, Adam Grob came up and absolutely launched a 3 run shot out of left field to make for a 7-2 Spartan lead. Upstate went on to add 2 more in the 8th and clinched the series with a 9-2 win.
Grob led the team in RBIs with 3, with the home run being his lone hit. He also drew a walk.
Noah Rabon was 1-2 with 2 walks, 2 runs scored, and an RBI. Koby Kropf went 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI. Troy Hamilton was 1 of 3 with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Cole Caruso finished 1 for 2 with a pair of walks and 2 runs scored.
Wofford – The Terriers looked to bounce back and get their bats going in game 2 of the series – particularly more production from their new additions to the lineup.
Wofford sent Freshman right handed arm Charlie Weber out for his first start, and he was effective until he got to his 4th inning of work. Like Chase Matheny in Upstate’s game, he did not qualify for the win, going 4 innings. He gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits and didn’t walk a single batter, adding 3 strikeouts.
The Terrier offense did their part to help him early on, plating 2 runs in the bottom of the 1st on a Brice Martinez single with the bases loaded and 1 out. Those 2 runs would be all the Terriers could muster for the next 3 innings, allowing Southern Illinois to rally back and take the lead with 2 runs in the 3rd inning and 1 in the 4th.
Wofford and SIU went back and forth over the next 5 innings, with the Terriers seeing a similar trend to Friday night – the returnees making the most contribution.
Marshall Toole, Ryan Galanie, and Jack Renwick combined to go 12 for 16 at the dish with 8 RBIs, striking out just 3 times with 3 walks and 6 runs scored. In contrast, the “new guys” went 1 of 14.
The best part featuring a newcomer happened in the bottom of the 9th inning when Sophomore Connor Larson drew a walk with 1 away. Jack Renwick bunted him over to 2nd and then Marshall Toole came up. Toole hit a slow roller to short and just did beat the rap to 1st, allowing Larson to come home to walk it off, giving the Terriers the 8-7 comeback win to even the series.
Luke Stephens got the win for Wofford, pitching the final 2 and a third scoreless innings with no walks or strikeouts. At the dish, Marshall Toole had a big day, going 3-3 with 3 walks, 2 RBIs, and 2 runs scored. Ryan Galanie was 3 for 5 with 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Brice Martinez had a perfect day at the plate as well, going 4 for 4 with 2 ribbys and a run scored.
Upstate- On another sunny and cool afternoon for baseball, the Spartans went for the series sweep. Junior lefty Henry Proger took the hill for Upstate. Mike McGuire shifted the lineup around for the 3rd straight time this weekend. The middle of the lineup remained the same as it had been – Rabon, Kropf, and Brock batting 3-4-5. The changes were that Troy Hamilton batted leadoff rather than Johnny Sweeney, who started the first 2 games in the 1 hole. Al Holguin filled Hamilton’s spot from the first 2 games in the 6 hole.
Pitching wise for Upstate, Proger was on fire through the first 5 innings. He struck out 7 with no walks and no hits in that stretch – yep.. That is a lot of words and numbers for “He had a perfect game going to the 6th.”
It was broken up in the 6th after a 2 out walk and an RBI double to the left field corner, but Proger rebounded nicely by getting his 8th K of the day to retire the side. He would complete the 6th inning before bowing out to the Spartans’ bullpen, who were also just as effective as they had been all weekend. Between Ben Roberts, Logan Winkelman, Nate Thomas, and Aj Hacker, they gave up just a run on 2 hits with 2 free passes in 3 innings of work.
Towson starter Max Simpson was pitching to contact and was effective for an inning. Things unraveled for him in the 2nd. Al Holguin started a rally with a 1 out single through the right side. Cole Caruso followed it up with a base hit up the gut that took a high hop off the 2nd base bag allowing Holguin to go 1st to 3rd. After a swinging bunt towards the 1st base side of the bump from Braxton Boddorf where the pitcher came off for a fielder’s choice and tossed it home, but Holguin’s foot barely got in under the tag to put the Spartans on the board.
The worst blows for Simpson were self-inflicted and came on back to back wild pitches that scored Cole Caruso and Adam Grob. There was also a huge error that plated 2 more for the Spartans when Noah Rabon hit a low and shallow liner towards the shortstop. He came in and should have made the shoe top-high snag, but instead the ball dropped off his glove and went behind him, allowing JD Brock and Troy Hamilton to come home to make it a 5-0 game.
The Spartans added 4 more runs in the bottom of the 6th on an Adam Grob sac fly that scored Cole Caruso, an HBP with the bases loaded by Daniel Gernon, who was pinch hitting for JD Brock, and a 2 run single by Noah Sullivan that drove in Gernon and Troy Hamilton.
USCU scratched across one last run in the bottom of the 7th on a 2nd sac fly from Grob to score Caruso, putting them in double digits for the first time this season. Towson mustered a run in the top of the 9th, but it was far too little far too late as the Spartans completed the season opening sweep with a 10-2 victory.
Proger was obviously the winning arm in this one, but the Spartans were led at the plate by Cole Caruso, who went 2 for 2 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored. Braxton Boddorf was 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Troy Hamilton was 1-3 with 2 bases on balls and 2 runs scored. Noah Sullivan went 1-4 with a pair of RBIs. Adam Grob also tallied 2 RBIs. Noah Rabon and Grant Sherrod combined for 2 RBIs on a 0-4 at the dish.
The Spartans return to action with the first road trip on Wednesday, heading down to Jacksonville to face the North Florida Osprey. First pitch is set for 6:00. They will return home the following weekend to host the One Spartanburg Inc. Classic, featuring Michigan State, Toledo, and Northwestern. Times for Upstate’s games in the showcase are Friday at 3:00 PM, Saturday at 2:00 PM, and Sunday at 1:00 PM.
Wofford– After a walkoff win on Saturday to even the series, the Terriers faced a big rubber match with Southern Illinois on Sunday afternoon. In typical Sunday college baseball rubber game fashion, there was a lot of offense.
Coulson Buchanan was called on to start on the hill for Wofford. He was a big arm on Sundays for the Terriers in 2022, despite some struggles at times. If his performance in just 4 innings of work Sunday is any indicator of his potential for this season, the Terriers are in good hands when the series is on the line. He surrendered just a run on 3 hits and struck out 5 with only 1 walk.
Since he pitched just 4 complete, Buchanan obviously did not qualify for the win. That would end up going to one of the many new faces in Boss the Terrier’s doghouse this season – freshman righty Branton Little.
Little gave up 2 earned runs on 4 hits in his 2 innings of work. But, the pitching was not the story of this game. It was the Terriers’ offense and their ability to respond when down that took center stage.
Wofford’s bats struggled to get going up until the bottom of the 3rd inning when Marshall Toole got things started with a solo homer out of left center. After Dixon Black reached on a fielder’s choice, a wild pitch, and a Trey Yunger groundout that advanced Black to 3rd, Brice Martinez came up with a clutch 2 out double down the right field line to give the Terriers the 2-1 lead.
They held that lead up until the 5th inning when Little surrendered his 2 runs to go down 3-2. But, the Wofford bats once again responded with a pair of runs on a Dixon Black RBI single that drove in Ryan Galanie and a Trey Yunger RBI single that scored Black. Ryan Galanie added a 5th run on a double to score Cameron Gill in the bottom of the 6th. That 5th run proved to be the difference maker.
The Salukis scratched across a run on a solo blast in the top of the 9th off Lucas Mahlstedt, but the Terriers clinched the series with a 5-4 win.
Wofford was led by Ryan Galanie, who was a perfect 3 for 3 at the plate with an RBI and a run scored. Trey Yunger and Cameron Gill both went 2-4 with a combined 1 RBI and a run scored. Dixon Black had the best weekend of the newcomers, but in this game, he was 1 of 4 with a ribby and 2 runs scored. Brice Martinez and Marshall Toole also each tallied an RBI in the win.
The Terriers will be back on the diamond at The Railyard on Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 PM as they face the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. They’ll follow that up with a 3 game set this weekend against Kent State with game times set for Friday at 5:30 PM, Saturday at 2, and Sunday at 1.