GREENVILLE, S.C -- Furman baseball opens its 2017 season on Friday when it plays host to Dayton in a 4:00 p.m. game at Latham Stadium on campus — part of a three-game series against the Flyers that will include 1:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday contests.
The campaign will mark the 116th season for Furman baseball -- the university's second oldest sport that began in 1891.
Under the direction of new head coach Brett Harker, who assumed the program's reins in July, Furman returns 22 lettermen, including seven position starters and two weekend starting pitchers, off last year's squad that posted a fourth place Southern Conference regular season finish.
A consensus preseason fourth place pick in polls of SoCon head coaches and media, Furman is expected to throw a pair of right-handers over the weekend, beginning with junior Will Gaddis (10-3, 3.45 ERA), the league's reigning pitcher of the year and preseason pick to retain the honor. Last year Gaddis proved dominant at home, going 6-0 with a 1.84 ERA in seven outings. Baseball America recently rated him the 39th best college draft prospect available for the 2017 Major League Draft, scheduled for June 17, and D1Baseball tagged him No. 24 on its list of Top 200 pitchers in the nation.
Sophomore left-hander Grant Schuermann (3-2, 6.06 ERA in '15), who has shown great promise after sitting out the 2016 campaign following shoulder surgery, will toe the rubber on Saturday, and Sunday's scheduled starter is senior right-hander Matthew Quarles (7-7, 5.32 ERA), whose was instrumental in Furman going 14-6 over its final 20 games a year ago.
Furman sports a solid cast of position players, led by senior outfielders Carter Grote (.318, 6 HR, 28 RBI) and Sky Overton (.273, 1 HR, 14 RBI), and senior catcher Cameron Whitehead (.340, 4 HR, 20 RBI). Grote, the Paladins' left-fielder, has fully recovered from a late season ankle fracture that sidelined him for the final nine games, and in center field Overton will look to continue his streak that saw him hit .323 over the final 36 games last spring. The return of Whitehead may be one of program's biggest bonuses after being sidelined at mid-season with a back injury.
Two juniors, second baseman Sims Griffith (.274, 3 HR, 22 RBI) and first baseman Brandon Elmy (.328, 1 HR, 21 RBI), are back, and the Paladins boast a pair of impressive sophomore position starters in right fielder/designated hitter Jabari Richards (.343, 10 RH, 25 RBI), who hit leadoff and captured 2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year honors despite missing a full month of action, and third baseman/pitcher Jake Crawford (.308, 1 HR, 31 RBI), a SoCon All-Freshman and SoCon All-Tournament selection who swatted .354 over the final 30 games, in addition to serving as the Paladins' closer (five saves) over the final month of the season.
Friday's opener will mark the 12th meeting in baseball between Furman and Dayton. The Paladins swept the Flyers in a three-game set last year and have won seven straight in the series, which they lead 9-2.
All three games this weekend will be live streamed through FurmanPaladins.com. Friday's opener and Sunday's series finale will include an audio stream through Stretch Internet, available through FurmanPaladins.com, and via Tune In Radio and iHeartRadio.com, as well as WPLS 95.9 FM in the Furman area, with Dan Scott, the "Voice of the Paladins" on the call.
StatBroadcast live stats will be presented for all three games, with links available thru FurmanPaladins.com, and fans can also receive updates via twitter @FurmanBaseball.
Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information