GREENVILLE, S.C.. -- Furman's baseball team returns to Southern Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against arch-rival The Citadel beginning with a Saturday doubleheader at Joseph P. Riley Park in Charleston. First pitch for the twinbill is set for 1:00 p.m.
Furman (19-22, 4-8 SoCon) has swept its last two series with The Citadel (14-25, 3-9 SoCon), winning all three games two years ago in Charleston and outscoring the Bulldogs 36-5 in a three-game sweep last season in Greenville.
Diamond rivals since 1900, Furman and Citadel have battled 238 times over the years.
All three games will be presented via Stretch Audio, with the "Voice of the Paladins" Dan Scott on the call, and video streamed over the SoCon Digital Network. Links to the audio and video streams, as well as Citadel-driven live stats are available thru FurmanPaladins.com.
The Paladins enter the weekend in seventh place in the SoCon standings, a game up on the eighth-place Bulldogs. Both teams own one league series victory this year, with Furman's coming on the road at Mercer (Apr. 6-8) and The Citadel registering its series win at home against Western Carolina. Last week the Paladins dropped two of three at VMI, posting a 19-1 pasting of the Keydets on Sunday to avoid the sweep; the Bulldogs, meanwhile, lost all three encounters against Wofford in Spartanburg.
After seeing two thirds of its starting weekend pitching rotation sidelined with injuries two weeks ago against Wofford, Furman is expected to again rely on a pair of freshmen to step forward with starts versus The Citadel. Redshirt junior right-hander Nik Verbeke (4-3, 5.22 ERA) is slated to get the nod in Saturday's first game, and he will be followed by redshirt freshman John Michael Bertrand (4-1, 5.12 ERA) in game two. Freshman right-hander Jordan Beatson (1-2, 5.56 ERA) will toe the rubber in Sunday's 1:00 p.m. finale.
Bertrand earned the win (5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K) against VMI in the first weekend start of his young career, and Beaston, making his first collegiate start following 15 appearances in relief, took the loss (4.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K) in last Saturday's 13-7 setback to the Keydets, running into trouble in the fifth inning following four solid frames of work.
Bertrand and Beatson replaced sidelined Paladin starters, senior left-hander Grant Schuermann (2-6, 5.33 ERA) and freshman left-hander Matt Lazzaro (3-4, 5.11 ERA). Last year Schuermann out-dueled Bulldog ace JP Sears, allowing one earned run over seven innings, to collect the victory in the 4-2 series opening triumph.
Furman lost a 10-2 verdict to 25th-ranked South Carolina on Tuesday at Fluor Field in downtown Greenville after taking down the Gamecocks, 6-4, in Columbia in late February. The Paladins have played the SoCon's toughest schedule by far this year, with its slate ranked as the 14th toughest among Division I's 297 programs.
Freshman center field Ben Anderson (.381, 3 HR, 29 RBI) leads Furman in batting average, hits (61), runs (43), triples (5, slugging percentage (.563), on base percentage (.474), and multi-hit games (19). The only other Paladin topping .300 at the plate is senior designated hitter Jason Costa (.315, 6 HR, 30 RBI).
A trio of Paladins have made some noise offensively of late, including junior shortstop Bret Huebner (.297, 1 HR, 19 RBI), junior left-fielder Jabari Richards (.280, 4 HR, 24 RBI), and senior first baseman Brandon Elmy (.276, 7 HR, 28 RBI). Huebner has gone 10-for-20 (.500) in his last five games, Richards 5-for-13 (.384) with a double, home run, and four RBI in the last three contests, and Elmy 6-for-13 (.461) with two home runs, two doubles, seven RBI, and four runs in the last three games. Richards, in particular, has enjoyed notable success versus The Citadel in his career, hitting .461 (12x26, 3 HR, 5 2B, 8 RBI, 11 R) in six games (6-0) against the Bulldogs.
Hitting .277 as a team the Paladins' 347 strikeouts are only topped by VMI's 349 among SoCon teams. Furman also ranks last in the league with 22 steals, but the Paladins have swiped a pair of bases in each of their last three outings.
Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information