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June 11, 2009
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Juniors Teddy Fallon (Palm Beach Gadens, Fla./Boston College) and Matt Branham (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) became the third and fourth USC Upstate baseball players in the last six years and the 10th and 11th in school history to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft, as Fallon was selected in the 43rd round with the 1,285th pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Branham was selected in the 47th round with the 1,421st pick by the Houston Astros on Thursday.
"I'm real happy for Matt and Teddy both," Upstate head coach Matt Fincher said. "They have worked and improved their skills substantially in their time here. Both of them have the physical tools to make good professional pitchers."
This is the first time since 1988 that two USC Upstate players have been selected in the MLB draft. The 1988 squad featured five draft picks (Leonard Thigpen, New York (AL), 69th round; Don Brock, San Francisco, 35th round; Rick Given, Houston, 20th round; Ken Penland, Texas, 40th round; Lindsay Robinson, Texas, 32nd round).
"I'm pleased," Fincher said. "It's a good sign for the program that we had two players drafted. It's a sign that we are continuing to move forward and that things are looking up."
Fallon, a 6-2 right-handed reliever, was selected by Pittsburgh in the 43rd round, becoming the second player in school history to be drafted by the Pirates, joining 2006 Upstate graduate Brandon Williams, who was selected in the 29th round. He could become the third player to play in the Pirates' organization, joining Williams and Tony McKinney, who was signed by the Pirates as an undrafted free agent in 1988.
With a fastball that touches 94 miles an hour, Fallon entered many scouts' radar screens. He also adds a nasty slider that he threw for a consistent strike for much of the second half of the spring.
Fallon turned into the go-to arm in the Upstate bullpen late in the spring. In his last eight outings, he had a 1-0 record with a save and a 4.35 ERA in 20.2 innings. The Florida fireballer struck out 22 and walked 13 during that stretch. His four innings of one-hit, scoreless relief against Kennesaw State helped the Spartans take a 7-5 decision on Easter Sunday. Against The Citadel on May 6, Fallon was just as good, throwing 3 1/3 innings of one-hit ball, striking out one to pick up the save. Fallon's emergence has come after he held a 16.88 ERA and had walked 36 batters in his first 13 1/3 innings.
Now playing in the Coastal Plain League with the Gastonia Grizzlies, Fallon has picked up where he left off at the end of Upstate's season. In 6 2/3 innings and five appearances, he is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
Fallon came to USC Upstate in 2007 and immediately became an important part of the Spartans' bullpen. He went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA and three saves to help lead the team to the Peach Belt Tournament in Upstate's final year of Division II play.
Fallon, a graduate of Cardinal Newman High School, was a Florida First Team Class 3A All-State selection as a senior. He went 8-1 with a 1.86 ERA and 83 strikeouts, also helping him earn Palm Beach County Player of the Year honors. After a year in which he redshirted at Boston College, Fallon transferred to Upstate.
Branham is the fourth player in school history to be selected by the Astros in the MLB draft, joining 1987 picks Chris Hawkins (15th round) and Kenny Dickson (21st round) and 1988 selection Rick Given (20th round). Branham popped up on many scouts' radars thanks to a fastball that runs into the low-90s and his ability to throw both a slider and change for strikes. He has improved his ability to miss bats, culminating in his school-record 82 strikeouts this season. As a junior, Branham was befallen by several hard-luck during several of his starts, as he finished 2-5 with a 4.39 ERA, but he left three games qualified for the win before taking a no-decision. He tossed 82 innings, with batters hitting a paltry .267. He walked just 27 while his 82 punchouts were seventh-best in the A-Sun.
Branham had six quality starts during the season and lasted less than five innings in just two of his 13 starts. He finished the year strong, going 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his last three starts. He posted a win over Wofford, tossing eight innings and allowing seven hits while striking out seven and closed the year with seven innings of work in a win over Campbell. He allowed just four hits, an earned run and struck out seven in the game.
The Columbia, S.C., native started 12 games on the hill as a sophomore, finishing with a 6-5 record and a 4.04 ERA in 84.2 innings pitched. He struck out 57 and walked just 18, while going the distance in two starts. He pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing eight hits in a start against Jacksonville, striking out six and followed that by striking out a career-high 10 in his first nine-inning complete game at Gardner-Webb. He allowed six hits and two walks in the 2-1 win to earn Upstate's first A-Sun Pitcher of the Week award. He saved the best for last, though, as he tossed a complete-game six hitter against A-Sun Champion Florida Gulf Coast in his last start. He struck out eight and walked two in the game, allowing just a ninth-inning homer in the game to help Upstate to the 2-1 win. He was the only pitcher to outduel MLB sixth-round draft pick and A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Richard Bleier of FGCU in 2008.
As a freshman, Branham immediately stepped into the Spartan starting rotation, going 3-3 overall with a 3.58 ERA. He finished third on the team with 65.1 innings pitched and posted five quality starts. He tossed Upstate's only complete-game shutout of the season, an 8-0, seven-inning three-hitter of Augusta State. He also threw a season-high eight innings, allowing five hits and one run in a no-decision at national runner-up Columbus State and took a hard-luck 4-2 loss in opening-round of Peach Belt Tournament, tossing 6 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs to 22nd-ranked Francis Marion.
Branham has also been active in summer baseball, pitching primarily as a reliever. After his freshman year, Branham pitched with his hometown Columbia Blowfish of the Coastal Plains League before heading to the New York Summer Collegiate League after his sophomore year. He helped the Brockport Riverbats to the league title, serving as the team closer, picking up 10 saves during the summer.
He is currently playing with the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate League this summer. He has been busy so far this summer, throwing 8 1/3 scoreless innings for the Gulls, tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in his debut before tossing six scoreless innings, allowing one hit in a 4-0 combined shutout of Lowell on Monday.
The Spartans finished their second year of Division I play with an overall record of 17-37 and added a mark of 7-23 in the Atlantic Sun Conference under 12th-year head coach Matt Fincher.