By Forest Stulting, Sports Editor
The Furman Paladin baseball team has been picked to finish sixth in the SoCon by both the media and coaches for its 2016 campaign, the same place where the Paladins finished in 2015.
Overall the Paladins return 19 lettermen, two weekend starters and a host of regular position players.
In the field, the Paladins are led by three-year starter Jordan Simpson at second base who batted .339, 14 HR, 46 RBI last year. Also returning is junior catcher Cameron Whitehead (.258, 7 HR, 29 RBI) and junior outfielder Carter Grote (.304, 19 RBI, .418 OBP).
Junior outfielders Carter Grote (.304, 4 HR, 19 RBI, .418 OBP) and Sky Overton (.270, 1 HR, 14 RBI) also return along with sophomore first basemen Brandon Elmy (.285, 6 HR, 23 RBI) and senior outfielder Griffin Davis (.292, 3 HR, 29 RBI).
On the mound, the Paladins are led by sophomore Will Gaddis, (3-6 5.40 E.R.A.) who was selected to the SoCon all-freshman team last year, and junior Matthew Quarles (6-2 5.46 E.R.A). Gaddis and Quarles will likely head the three-man weekend rotation for the Paladins this season.
The top returning relievers from last year include junior right-handers Will Dvorak and Nolan Mullen and senior left-handers Harry Norman and Billy Greenfield.
The Paladins open their 2016 campaign Friday, Feb. 19 at Fluor Field in downtown Greenville against Fordham. Fluor Field will also play host to Furman’s next two games against Michigan State (Feb. 20) and Presbyterian (Feb. 21).
Furman will then travel to Presbyterian (Feb.23) before returning to Latham Stadium for its next eight games. Those games include a three-game series against Dayton (Feb. 26-28) and Holy Cross (March 5-6), with single-game matchups against USC-Upstate (March 1) and UNC-Asheville (March 8).
Other out-of-conference matchups include home and away sets with in-state rivals South Carolina (at March 9, vs. April 20), Clemson (vs. March 29, at May 4) and College of Charleston (vs. March 15, at May 17), plus away series against Tulane (March 11-13), Davidson (March 18-20) and West Virginia (April 8-10).
The Paladins will host four weekend series against SoCon opponents Samford (March 24-26), UNCG (April 15-17), Western Carolina (May 6-8) and Wofford (May 19-21).
Furman’s away conference schedule includes games against East Tennessee University (April 1-3), Mercer (April 22-24), The Citadel (April 30-May 1) and Virginia MIlitary Institute (May 13-15).
Head coach Ron Smith is entering into his 23rd season at the helm of the Paladin baseball program.