Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
February 15, 2013
Chad Holbrook is just the fourth coach at South Carolina since 1970, following in the footsteps of Bobby Richardson (1970-76), June Raines (1977-1996) and, of course, Ray Tanner (1997-2012), who was honored for his accomplishments in an emotional pre-game ceremony on Friday.
As a result, the season-opening 4-3 win over Liberty meant a lot to him for reasons beyond the obvious fact it was the first of his career as a head coach.
"Personally, it was an emotional day. I don't make any bones about that," Holbrook said. "It wasn't your typical Opening Day for me. Heck, I'm one of four head coaches here since 1970. I won a game here. That's pretty cool. It's certainly special. I've been coaching for 19 years. This is my 20th year. It means a lot to win the first one.
"It was a great day for South Carolina baseball, a great day for Chad Holbrook and a great day for our players."
The fact that the contest was decided by one run shouldn't have come as a surprise to anybody that has closely followed college baseball in the past few years. The toned-down bats have limited the number of home runs and produced closer games.
"In this day and age with these bats and the way the game is played - I saw some of the scores across the country - what happened here today isn't different than what's happening everywhere," Holbrook said.
In many ways, this year's season-opener played out a lot like 2012's first game, when USC edged VMI 2-1. The following day, USC pulled out a 3-2 win in the second game of the season. Close, hard-fought games are the rule rather than the exception nowadays in college baseball.
"We have to get better and we have a lot of work to do," Holbrook said. "I keep going back to some things that happened last year when we opened up against VMI. Then we had a tough series against Elon (8-1, 3-2, 6-0). This isn't unusual for us to play tight games early.
"I want us to play better and I think we will. We had the normal first-game jitters. I didn't do a very good job of relaxing my team. I'll try harder to do that (on Saturday)."
RIPKEN NOT ON FINAL ROSTER: Highly publicized walk-on Ryan Ripken, son of legendary Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., failed to make the final 35-man roster when it was announced on Friday prior to the season-opener with Liberty. Ripken was one of several players cut, although he will be able to use USC's facilities for workouts on his own. The list of players cut included USC wide receiver Kwinton Smith and Weber Pike, Anthony Paulsen, Kris Nelson, Robert Lawhon, Hunter Privette and Cameron Tewksbury.
SATURDAY'S PITCHING MATCHUP: While sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery received the honor of starting on Opening Day, Holbrook said that Montgomery and Colby Holmes are 1A and 1B in terms of who is classified as USC's "Friday-night guy." Holmes, a senior from Conway, was 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA last season and earned preseason All-America honors entering the current campaign. He will be opposed on Saturday by Liberty's Brooks Roy, a senior right-hander from Tacoma, Wash.
Roy moved from the bullpen to starter at the beginning of April 2012. In his first season with Liberty, he recorded a win in each of his first three appearances as a reliever on the way to a 4-0 mark with a 2.49 ERA.
USC - RHP Colby Holmes
Liberty - RHP Brooks Roy
SPEAKING ENGLISH FROM BOTH SIDES: Tanner English's switch-hitting experiment came to fruition on Friday when he stepped into the left-handed hitter's box to lead off the first inning. He finished the day 1-for-4 with a single, batting from the left side each time.
"He has done everything I've asked him to do," Holbrook said. "His bunt game is better, his (batting) eye is better, he has walked a lot more and his strikeouts are down. That was the reason we made the decision we made. There are going to be bumps in the road with it because it's new. Tanner is going to be fine. He might not hit .300 or close to it like last year, but I have a hunch his on-base percentage will be much higher. Because of his speed, that will make our team better."
English agreed to try hitting left-handed when Holbrook told him after the College World Series that he needed to increase his on-base percentage, which was a modest .341 a year ago. English fanned a team-high 71 times in 2012.
"I feel like I've put the ball in play a lot more," English said recently. "It's baseball. You're going to strike out sometimes. But I'm a lot more confident in myself as a hitter and being able to trust myself with two strikes. It's been tough (learning to bat left-handed). It's doing everything you've done for a lot of years and doing it completely opposite. It's tough, but I'm glad I'm doing it and coach Holbrook is giving me an opportunity to do it."
CAUGHT IN THE WEBB: Tyler Webb encountered a messy situation when he took the mound in the eighth on Friday. Liberty had scored two runs and had the tying run in scoring position. But Webb put out the fire after allowing a run-scoring ground-out and walking one. He set down Liberty in order in the top of the ninth to hand USC the season-opening win. Webb threw 28 pitches, 18 for strikes.
"We feel good about Tyler," Holbrook said. "You have to beat Tyler. He throws strikes. He's composed. He has a good change-up and a good slider. He gives you a chance to win every time out. His stuff isn't as dominating, necessarily, as Matt Price. But it's not fair to compare Matt Price and Tyler Webb. Tyler is very effective in his own right. If you go back and look at his numbers, I'll put them up against anybody. He's tough to beat. It was neat to see him flourish in that role."
* Running back Shon Carson made his USC baseball debut in the seventh when he pinch-ran for Erik Payne. He strolled to second when TJ Costen was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a bunt single by Chase Vergason and was forced out at home on a fielder's-choice grounder by English.
* Holbrook said that Dante Rosenberg will probably start Saturday's game at catcher. He plans to give Grayson Greiner and Rosenberg plenty of playing time in 2013. "Dante deserves to play," Holbrook said. "I want to keep our catchers fresh. That's one thing I'm going to do. Grayson was tremendous today. His defense played a big role in us winning the game." Holbrook also mentioned Connor Bright and Curt Britt as two players he wants to get on the field as well.
* Nine pitchers between the two teams combined for 14 strikeouts and 13 walks.
* Freshman second baseman Max Schrock batted third in the order and went 0-for-4 with one RBI on a fielder's-choice groundout.
SEC RESULTS (Friday)
USC 4, Liberty 3
Kentucky 9, UNC Asheville 2
Arkansas 9, Western Illinois 1
Auburn 3, Maine 2
Ole Miss 1, TCU 0
Mississippi State 16, Portland 1
Southern Miss 5, Missouri 2
Vanderbilt 10, Long Beach State 4
Georgia 6, Georgia Southern 5
Alabama 8, VMI 3
Duke 4, Florida 3
Illinois-Chicago 2, Texas A&M 0
LSU 1, Maryland 0
UNLV 10, Tennessee 9
South Carolina NEWS