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Fincher has spent the last decade-plus building the Spartans from a team that won 38 games in the three years prior to his hiring into a team that entered the Division I ranks in 2008 by finishing with a winning conference record for the first time since 1990. He has coached two current professional baseball players (Chris Nowak and Teddy Fallon) as Spartans. Along with former pro players Bradley Blanks, Eric Davis, Bret Story and Brandon Williams, Fincher has helped six Spartans reach their goal of playing professional baseball.
Fincher's clubs proved a thorn in the side of many of the best baseball teams in Division II, beating 48 teams ranked in the Collegiate Baseball Magazine Top 30 with 20 wins against teams in the top 10. The Spartans even pulled off historic wins on March 23, 2003, when Upstate downed top-ranked Kennesaw State, 8-7, and on March 18, 2006 when Upstate beat top-ranked Georgia College & State University, 11-1. In all, the Spartans won at least one game against a team inside the top 25 in each of Fincher's years with the program in Division II and won at least one game against a team ranked in the top 10 in their last five years of DII play.
But that is just the beginning of Fincher's story as a baseball coach. He is one of the most accomplished summer league coaches of the last 20 years. He has spent time in the Northeast Collegiate League, the Jayhawk League, the Alaska Central League and 10 seasons in the Cape Cod League. One of only two people to ever have their number retired by the legendary Chatham A's, Fincher spent a decade on the Cape, coaching future major leaguers such as Jason Bay, Ryan Braun, David Bush, Matt Cepicky, Luke Carlin, Chris Coghlan, Jamie D'Antona, David DeJesus, Ron Flores, Chris Getz, Adam Greenberg, Brad Halsey, Rich Hill, David Huff, Chris Ianetta, Joe Inglett, Matt Kata, Mike Koplove, Bobby Korecky, Tim Lahey, Chris Lambert, Todd Linden, Evan Longoria, Mike MacDougal, Marcus McBeth, Kevin Mench, Andrew Miller, Colt Morton, Ryan Mullins, Ross Ohlendorff, Chad Orvella, Bobby Parnell, Kevin Reese, Brian Roberts, Kyle Snider, Tim Stauffer, Matt White, Chris Young and Brad Ziegler.
The Spartans, despite falling to 11th in the A-Sun in 2009, had plenty of bright spots, including a 1-0 win over SEC school Tennessee and a 4-3 win over Charlotte, the program's first win over a Division I school receiving votes in a national poll. After the season, Austin Moyer earned A-Sun All-Freshman team honors and for the first time since 1998, two Spartans were drafted as pitchers Teddy Fallon (Pittsburgh) and Matt Branham (Houston) were selected in the MLB draft.
In 2008, Fincher led Upstate to its seventh straight 20-win season and added the school's first winning conference campaign since 1990, all while getting the team adjusted to the rigors of Division I baseball and the Atlantic Sun Conference. Along the way, the Spartans continued to play the role of the spoiler, as they shocked A-Sun Tournament Champions Lipscomb with two come-from-behind wins and also shocked regular season A-Sun Champions Florida Gulf Coast by closing the season with two wins in a three-game set.
In the process, Fincher coached both an Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman Team member (Blake Green) and the school's first All-Atlantic Sun Conference selection in second-team pitcher Kyle Bowley.
To close out the Division II era, Fincher coached three of the finest teams in program history, with the Spartans holding a national ranking at some point in each of its last three years in the Peach Belt Conference. A hitting guru, in three of the 12 seasons that Fincher has been head coach, the Spartans finished the season with a batting average better than .300.
Fincher led Upstate to three straight winning seasons and back-to-back appearances in the six-team Peach Belt Conference Tournament to close the Division II era. The Spartans finished the 2007 season with a 34-25 record and a 15-15 mark in the conference, finishing the season as the No. 4 seed heading into the PBC Tournament. The 15-15 league record was the best Peach Belt record in school history.
In 2006, the Spartans finished with a 33-24 record, the third time in the last four years the Spartans posted a winning record. USC Upstate advanced to the six-team Peach Belt Conference Tournament and was one of the final four teams left in the event before being eliminated on the next to last day. The Spartans also claimed their first NCAA regional ranking.
The 2005 Spartans finished with the program's best record as a member of NCAA Division II. USC Upstate had a 33-21 overall record and a 14-16 mark in the legaue in the 2005 season as Matt Goyea won the conference batting title and Kyle Bowley was named the league's Freshman of the Year.
In 2004, the Spartans recorded a then-school record 11 conference wins. After the season, Chris Nowak was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 19th round of the Major League Baseball draft, becoming the Spartans' first draft pick since 1991.
In 2003, the Spartans finished with a 28-26 record, the first time since 1991 that the Spartans had a .500 or better record. It also marked the best record in the program since 1991. Fincher started Upstate's resurgence in 2002, leading the team to 21 wins, the first of a school-record seven straight 20-win seasons.
From 1994 to 1996, Fincher served three years as an assistant coach under former University of Georgia baseball coach Steve Webber. In 1994 and 1995, Fincher served as a volunteer assistant coach. In 1996, he was promoted to top assistant and served as the team's recruiting coordinator, hitting instructor, and coordinator of team travel. While at Georgia, Fincher earned his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction in Physical Education and taught activity courses in the basic physical education program.
During the summers of 1994 and 1995, Fincher coached the Athens (Ga.) Post 20 American Legion baseball team. The 1994 team won the state championship and advanced to the finals of the Southeast Regional before falling to eventual national champion Miami (Fla.) Post 346. The 1995 team finished second in the state tournament, losing in the state championship game in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Fincher began his coaching career at Eastern Illinois University, where he served as a graduate assistant coach with the baseball team and earned his M.S. in physical education. Following the completion of his master's, he accepted a position at Georgia College & State University where he assisted John Kurtz for five years. While at GCSU, Fincher's primary duties included hitting instruction, coaching catchers and outfielders, and field maintenance. He also taught in the physcial education department and coached cross country for one year.
In 1991-92, Fincher took a job on the grounds crew with the Atlanta Braves, working old Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium during two Braves' runs to the World Series.
In summer baseball, he managed the Cortland (NY) Apples of the Northeast Collegiate Baseball League in 1986 and 1987, and in 1988 he managed the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons of the Jayhawk League. In 1989, Fincher returned to the Northeast Collegiate League where he managed the Syracuse (NY) Braves. The summer of 1990 saw Fincher assisting with the Kenai Peninsula Oilers in the Alaska Central Baseball League. While with the Oilers, Fincher coached former MLB All-Star Rich Aurilia.
From 1997 to 2006 Fincher served as an assistant coach for the legendary Chatham A's in the Cape Cod Baseball League, who were featured in both the major motion picture "Summer Catch" and the season-long retrospective "Last Best League" by author Jim Collins. Over 10 summers, Fincher worked in a variety of roles which included coaching third base, field maintenance, and directing summer camps. During that time, the A's won a league championship in 1998 and division championships in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. His No. 23 was retired by the Chatham Athletic Association on Aug. 5, 2006.
Fincher played two seasons for coach Kurtz at GCSU, serving as a reliable catcher on one of the best small college programs in the Southeast. He also played two seasons at Wofford College. After exhausting his eligibility, Fincher finished his degree at Georgia Southern, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education in 1984.
Fincher grew up in Athens, where his father, Cameron, was the Director of the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. He was a charter member of the Association for Institutional Research and was the first member to be awarded both an outstanding service award and distinguished membership in that organization. He has published hundreds of scholarly articles and several books.
Fincher resides in Moore.
What They Are Saying About Coach Fincher
"Based on his vast experience in coaching, at so many levels, Matt is the right person to move USC Upstate to the DI level. I feel his strongest attribute is his ability to communicate with today's athlete. He has a unique ability to blend a strong disciplinary ethic and yet, he makes the experience fun for the players. He is a baseball junkie, constantly trying to learn new techniques and drills to make himself a better coach and convey this to his teams to make them better players. I enjoyed the 10 years Matt spent with us in Chatham. We were very fortunate to have very successful teams during his tenure and I give him a great deal of the credit for that success by helping creative a fun environment, while teaching the game of baseball the way it should be played."
"Matt Fincher is a class act and has done a great job at USC Upstate. He knows the game, respects the game, and always prepares his players to compete. I have nothing but respect for Coach Fincher and I know he will do a good job taking Upstate to Division I."
"The thing that has impressed me the most about Matt is that he is not willing to just compete. He has a very strong desire to take Upstate baseball to levels its never seen before, but he's also not willing to do that at any price. He's going to make sure he gets good students as well as good people that are exceptional athletes."
"Matt Fincher's role with the Chatham Athletics of the Cape Cod Baseball League transcended coaching. From his first year there, his enthusiasm, his distinctive whistling, and his seeming ever-presence at the ballfield made him almost an institution with the fans and host families. For the players, though, he was something more: part sage, part teacher, part friend, all baseball. The players in Chatham came from some of the best college programs in the country -- from the ACC and the Southeastern Conference, from Texas and Maine and Southern Cal -- and more than one of them said they wished they had Finch for a coach back at school."
"He definitely is the right guy for the program, He has built it from the ground up. We were ranked for the first time in the DII poll my freshman year and we had a great team during my four years. As far as him helping me, I was a walk-on that was cut twice during my high school career. I pitched just seven innings in high school. Fincher just gave me a chance. He developed me like I could be developed and a big part of the reason I've gotten to play collegiate baseball, let alone pro baseball, is because of Coach Fincher. He did wonders with me. You don't come across many coaches who are as patient with players as Coach Fincher. Plus, he can see the potential in players better than anyone I know."
Educational Background 1984 Bachelor of Science - Physical Education Georgia Southern 1985 Master of Science - Physical Education Eastern Illinois 1996 Doctorate of Education Georgia