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February 14, 2012
Everybody wants to play, and every pitcher especially wants to pitch. It doesn't matter if a hurler just threw 100 pitches the day before, he still wants to be out there for every pitch of the next game.
As South Carolina enters the 2012 season, it again has a healthy crop of new faces and new arms for the mound. As the Gamecocks' win total and notoriety have increased over the past two years, they've hauled in more and more high-ranking talent, but then there's the other part of high-ranking talent - high-ranking ego.
Yet, because of USC's solid mix of old and young talent, the Gamecocks feel it won't be a problem as they prepare to start another year. Two of their freshmen pitchers are leading the way, knowing that they will be given their opportunity but also knowing that they have to be prepared to wait to be impact players.
"You see what happened when Christian (Walker) got here as a freshman, he was starting first baseman," freshman Evan Beal pointed out. "Anything's really possible. You expect the level of play with these guys and you want to learn from them first."
"I'll get my opportunities early on and we'll kind of see where it goes from there," said another freshman, Joel Seddon. "I'm fine with whatever the team needs and whatever we need to win games. Middle relief, if that's coming in and getting an out every once in a while, that's fine with me."
Beal and Seddon were two of the biggest pieces of the recruiting class, each right-handed pitchers who turned down the lure of the major-league draft to come to college. Beal was selected in the eighth round and Seddon in the 20th, but each decided that coming to USC and having a chance to be a part of a run at history was too strong of a lure to turn down.
As the best pitchers on their high-school teams, each is used to being the guy who logs the most innings. Coming to USC, they saw that two other drafted pitchers, Michael Roth and Matt Price, had also turned down their draft selections and were returning to school. There was also the presence of Colby Holmes and Forrest Koumas, each of whom had been in the weekend rotation in 2011 and who were coming back.
Roth would naturally be the Friday-night starter. Price was being rewarded for two years of lights-out closing with a Saturday spot. Holmes would take over Sunday as Koumas would inherit Price's former role.
Beal and Seddon, high-school all-stars and draft picks, would be where? Maybe a midweek start, maybe a long relief role. Find a spot.
The two looked at the situation, shrugged.
"It's all fine with me," Beal said. "I'll play wherever."
"You want to have that mentality that you want to battle for a spot," Seddon said. "We have really good starters, but you have to work really hard and when you get your opportunities, you make the most of them."
Each are pitching well, coach Ray Tanner saying that they - plus fellow freshman Jordan Montgomery - will all get their chances. Those three and USC's crop of returning pitchers not named Roth, Price, Holmes or Koumas will probably be in constant rotation for the first two weeks of the season as Tanner seeks to find a steady mix.
Last year, the rotation became easy. Six or so innings from the starter, then John Taylor, then Price to close it. Taylor made a school-record 50 appearances, then took his talents to the majors.
Someone needs to replace that, and also give USC a steady starter for the midweek games, which will start popping up after the first two weekend series. Beal and Seddon aim to be in the mix for those.
Beal, at 6-foot-3, has displayed complete confidence in his pitches throughout the fall and preseason. Tickling 90 with his fastball and holding a curve that explores the ocean trenches, Beal is facing pressure to be as good as advertised, added with a little more.
"I'm wearing No. 14 now and John Taylor wore that last year," Beal said. "Fifty appearances, that's some big shoes to fill. I try not to think about that and just come out and do what I can to help the team win."
Beal chose 14 after his high-school number, 11, was taken (in the fall, incumbent Will Casey had it, then walk-on outfielder Sean Sullivan took it after Beal was already comfortable with his new number). He knew of Taylor, and then saw a few other 14s dotted around the innards of Carolina Stadium - like Aaron Rawl, who started the 2002 national championship game as a freshman, and Golden Spikes Award winner Kip Bouknight, holder of most of USC's pitching records.
"I don't think it's any extra pressure, to be honest," he said. "You try not to think about it. I've seen it in the hallways and it's posted all over the place. I wanted 14 and I got it, so I'm happy with it."
Seddon, at a generous 6-0, throws pitches that aren't indicative of his frame. An instinctive pitcher, Seddon is the kind of cerebral hurler that knows what to throw at any time in order to get the out.
"I've always tried to work fast and coach (Jerry) Meyers really emphasizes the tempo," Seddon said. "I took that and combined it with what I've already been doing. I like to work fast and get on the mound and go to work."
Each are drawing inspiration from the example of Roth, who went from a regarded hitter to a one-out reliever to an emergency starter to an All-American ace. They each know the deck may be stacked against them right now in terms of significant innings in 2012, but that the game doesn't always turned out as planned.
They don't mind the wait - even if it turns out to be throughout the year.
"Getting along off the field, we love each other," Beal said. "On the field, we're definitely competing for playing time. We want to come out and put up the best line that we can. We're always competing out here."
Just because SIGNING DAY is over doesn't mean our coverage of the
big day stops. We have more analysis of USC's 2012 signing class, plus
all of our normal content on GamecockCentral.com. Don't miss a thing
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