By Trent McCann
As pitchers and catchers have barely just started reporting to spring training in Florida and Arizona for their professional teams, college players will be celebrating opening their seasons from coast to coast on Friday, Feb. 15.
The nationwide opening day for college baseball is a month and a half earlier than the start to the professional season. For northern schools, this means a trip south to chase the warmer weather and play some ball. The Paladins will throw out their first pitch at 5 p.m. Friday afternoon at Fluor Field as part of the First Pitch Invitational in downtown Greenville, the home of the Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate, the Greenville Drive.
The team began practices two weeks ago in preparation for their season opener against Big Ten foe Michigan State.
This weekend’s event downtown will also feature games against Northwestern University and Miami of Ohio University.
Other notable games featuring Southern Conference teams this weekend include App State visiting ninth-ranked North Carolina State, Georgia Southern and instate rival Georgia Bulldogs, and the Citadel versus Kansas State on Sunday.
College of Charleston was the only SoCon school to crack the preseason top forty rankings, just squeaking in at #39. The University of South Carolina (#6), Clemson (#28), and Coastal Carolina (#35) also represent the state of South Carolina in the rankings, making Texas the only state with more teams (five) in the top 40.
The University of Arkansas is the preseason choice for national champion.
Preseason voting amongst the Southern Conference coaches has Furman picked to finish seventh in the conference this season. Elon and the College of Charleston are the clear favorites according to the coaches’ poll.
Furman senior outfielder and four-year starter Will Muzika was chosen as a preseason second-team all conference selection. In his career at Furman he has hit .295 with 22 homeruns and 117 RBI.
The Paladins play at home on Wednesday, Feb. 20 as they host Gardner-Webb at 3 p.m.