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March 9, 2013
Redshirt freshman Shon Carson made his first start in center field on Saturday as coach Chad Holbrook auditions both for a temporary replacement for the injured Tanner English and a permanent big stick in right field.
Prior to Saturday, Carson - along with fellow football two-sport player Ahmad Christian - had struggled at the plate. Combined, the two gridiron ballers were 0-for-6 with six strikeouts, four of those belonging to Carson.
While Carson technically made his first career start as designated hitter earlier this week against Ball State (0-for-3 with three strikeouts), on Saturday he made his first start in the field, playing center while English recovers from a sore right throwing shoulder.
The results were encouraging, to say the least. Settling down and focusing on making contact, Carson went 2-for-4 with two infield singles, a walk, a run scored and a sacrifice that earned his first career RBI.
"It felt good," Carson said. "I play better when I play the field, because once I do something good, it brings my mentality up. My first problem was I was swinging too hard, and I realized I just needed to put the ball in play and use my speed."
Holbrook couldn't agree more.
"I've been saying all year that if you're fast and you make contact, you can have success," Holbrook said. "Some of our fast guys struggle making contact sometimes, so we have to learn how to do that better. He's a fun player to watch, and I think the more he gets out there, the better he'll be.
"Shon Carson did give us a little spark there."
Holbrook said if he were writing the lineup out tonight, Carson and Bright would both be back out there on Sunday because both players "did what we asked them to do."
ENGLISH UPDATE: English, who USC officials said on Saturday will not need surgery on his shoulder, will sit out the Rider series and could possibly return to action next week.
"I think Tanner is out tomorrow again, and I'm hopeful we can get him in there some in the middle of the week," Holbrook said. "I'm hopeful. I wouldn't call it 'probable,' and I'm not saying 'doubtful', either. Somewhere in between."
BRIGHT SPOT: With sophomore TJ Costen struggling mightily at the plate (.152, 5-for-33), Connor Bright came in and filled in admirably, getting his first career home run and going 2-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
For Bright, the home run was a huge monkey off his back.
"My fellow players were nagging me saying I'm a singles hitter, a slap hitter, so I was happy to get one out of there," Bright said. "I knew he was throwing a lot of first-pitch fastballs and I got one up, about letter-high and finally got it out of there."
LOW LIGHT: Bunting remains an area of concern for Holbrook. In the sixth inning, after Joey Pankake's leadoff home run and a single and walk from LB Dantzler and Max Schrock, respectively, Bright came up with the signal to sacrifice bunt the runners over to second and third.
Instead, Bright hit a line drive popped up to the shortstop on the attempt, who quickly doubled Dantzler off at second to end the inning.
"I don't understand how kids can't bunt," Holbrook said. "It's like shooting free throws in basketball. Basketball players should be able to make free throws, and we should be able to sac bunt.
"Apparently we're not getting enough reps. I have a pet peeve. Line-drive double play on a bunt should never ever happen on that field with one of the teams wearing our jersey, and it did today, and that's why I'm chapped. I'll get over it."
BRITT SPOT: Freshman Curt Britt got his first start (at designated hitter) and, like Carson, his first career hit on Saturday was a single in the second inning, and he came around to score on Carson's RBI sacrifice. He finished the game 1-for-2.
AROUND THE SEC
South Carolina 9, Rider 5
Tennessee 13, Alcorn State 6
Arkansas 4, San Diego St. 1
Louisville 6, Alabama 0
Michigan St. 6, Kentucky 1
Ole Miss 8, Lipscomb 5
Central Arkansas 7, Mississippi State 5
Georgia 3, Liberty 1
San Francisco 8, Missouri 3
Florida 6, Indiana 4
Auburn 6, Brown 0
Vanderbilt at Oregon, 5 p.m.
Washington at LSU, 7:30 p.m.
Texas A&M at Cal St. Fullerton, 9 p.m.
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