UNION — The USC Union Bantams club baseball team is two weeks away from its season opener.
The Bantams came out in 2013 with an impressive first season, winning its 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, Furman, and Orangeburg-Calhoun (OC) Tech.
The Bantams have six players returning from last year:
• David Henderson (captain), of York, the nation’s home run leader last year
• Cory Robertson, of Whitmire, the team’s pitcher with the most game experience
• Second baseman Mike Wood, of Gaffney, who Coach Paul Wilkes called the most versatile player on the team
• First baseman and power hitter Nick Owen (captain), of Guyton, Ga.
• Catcher/pitcher Alec Acevedo, a Byrnes High School graduate, who Coach Wilkes said will most likely be the No. 1 pitcher this year
• Infielder Lee Wilburn, of Union, who Coach Wilkes said will see playing time at third, short stop, and second.
The Bantams also have 14 new additions for 2014:
• Jake Walton, a Union native who transferred from Spartanburg Methodist College
• Devontee “Fox” Glenn, a shortstop/pitcher from Union
• Keiston Bishop, a Union native who Coach Wilkes called the fastest player on the team
• Rashad Green, a Union native whose strong suits are speed and athleticism
• Cody Ledford, a York High School graduate whose strong suit is speed
• Kali Williams, a pitcher/outfielder from Chapin who Coach Wilkes said hits with tremendous power
• Matt Bostic, a pitcher/outfielder from York who Coach Wilkes called the hardest thrower on the team
• Joe Beatty (captain), a starting center fielder who Coach Wilkes said is a team leader who hits for average and with power
• Braxton Lambert, a left handed pitcher from Irmo
• Troy Baucum, a left handed pitcher from York
• Brandon Pitts, a second baseman from Clinton
• Christian Burton, a second baseman from Laurens
• Tyler Grubbs, a catcher from Mid-Carolina
• Floyd Small, a second baseman from Charleston
Wilkes said the goals for this year are to win the division, the conference championship, and then the national championship.
“With our success last year and the new additions to the team this year, I believe we have as good a chance as anybody to bring home the national championship,” Wilkes said. “It is definitely going to help, having experienced players on the team this year.”
The Bantams will have the home field advantage for seven weekends this year, as they will play in seven home-game series. Wilkes said he and the players hope the stands will be full at Timken Sports Complex for the team’s first home game against OC Tech on Feb. 8.
“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. 1-2 — USC Union at Florence Darlington (DH)
Feb. 8 — OC Tech at USC Union (9 inning)
Feb. 9 — USC Union at OC Tech (9 inning)
Feb. 15 — USC Sumter at USC Union (DH)
Feb. 16 — USC Union at USC Sumter (DH)
Feb. 22-23 — Gray Military at USC Union (DH)
Mar. 1-2 — USC Union at OC Tech (DH)
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.