#5 Patriots face Hurricanes to open PBC Tournament Saturday

Florence, SC - From Francis Marion University

FLORENCE, SC – The fifth-ranked and East Division top-seed Francis Marion University baseball team will face Georgia Southwestern State University, the West Division's fourth seed, at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning in the opening game of the 2010 Peach Belt Conference Tournament.

The eight-team, single-elimination tournament will be played at USC Aiken's Roberto Hernandez Stadium. FMU is the defending tournament champion.

Flagler College (28-22) and North Georgia College & State University (34-16) will play their opening-round game at Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta, Ga., at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Lake Olmstead Stadium is the home of the South Atlantic League's single-A Augusta Greenjackets.

Following the FMU/GSW contest at USCA's field, UNC Pembroke (34-13) will meet Columbus State University (39-10) at 2:30 p.m. and USCA (31-18) will meet PBC regular-season champion Georgia College & State University (35-14) at 6 p.m.

The tournament will conclude on Sunday with semifinal games at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., followed by the title contest at 6 p.m. If Francis Marion wins its Saturday game, the Patriots will play in the first semifinal on Sunday against the Flagler/North Georgia winner. The winner of the PBC Tournament will receive the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Daily ticket prices for the tournament are $7 for adults (13 years and older), $5 for children (6 to 12 years), and children under the age of six are free. A ticket will be good for all games that day, and all Peach Belt Conference passes will be honored.

The Patriots are 38-11, equaling the second-most victories ever for an FMU squad. Recently-named PBC Freshman of the Year right-hander Don Sandifer (6-0, 2.66 ERA) will be the probable starter for FMU on Saturday morning. Francis Marion is ranked 11th in the nation in team earned run average at 3.51, is ninth nationally in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (8.51), is and 13th in team fielding percentage (.968). Sandifer himself ranks 35th nationally in hits allowed (7.08), is 16th in fewest walks allowed per nine innings (1.18), and leads the Peach Belt in opponents' batting average against .214.

FMU senior shortstop Barrett Kleinknecht leads the Patriot regulars with a .352 average. He also boasts team-leading totals of 17 doubles, 11 homers, and 41 runs batted in. Sophomore outfielder Tyler Boyd is batting .342 with three homers and 29 RBIs. Junior first baseman Preston Shuey (.339, 4 HRs, 39 RBIs) is in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak.

Francis Marion captured two of three games from Georgia Southwestern in the final PBC series of the season. FMU leads the all-time series 10-2. The Hurricanes (27-18) are making their first-ever tournament appearance.

FMU is 16-20 all-time in PBC Tournament play and the Patriots have reached the title contest three times – in 1993, 2008, and last year's championship run (2009).