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March 15, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. - TJ Costen shook his head and sighed.
"We're dropping like flies," he said.
Left fielder Graham Saiko dove for a fly ball off the bat of Dane Opel in the seventh inning of Friday's 4-1 win over Missouri, and while he didn't get it, he muffed it enough so that the runners had to hold. Saiko rose and hurriedly fired to third base to get the lead man, but then began shaking his left wrist.
Trainer Brainard Cooper rushed out to check, and while Saiko stayed in for the final out of the inning, he sat down in the eighth inning. Shon Carson pinch-hit for him, and finished the game in center field; starting centerfielder Costen switched to right and starting right fielder Connor Bright switched to left.
There was no update on Saiko's wrist afterward, only coach Chad Holbrook saying that he wouldn't play in Saturday's doubleheader. Holbrook was hopeful that it was just a sprain.
Whatever the case, the Gamecocks are cycling through outfielders.
Backup Ahmad Christian went down in the first week with a back problem. Tanner English broke his nose in the same series, played through it, then developed a shoulder problem and has been on the shelf lately. Now Saiko is hurt.
Holbrook said that he thinks that English may play on Saturday, but it seems likely that Carson, Bright and Costen (plus Sean Sullivan) may see extended duty. As for who hits leadoff in Saiko's place, that brings forth another question.
English has experience, but is just getting back to game speed. Joey Pankake did it for the second half of last year, but he's been hitting so well in the three-hole that it would take away power in the lineup.
WELCOME TO THE LEAGUE: A regular-season record crowd of 3,145 showed up at Taylor Stadium at Simmons Field on Friday for Missouri's inaugural SEC game. The Tigers' brass approved fireworks and what sounded like cannon fire for player introductions.
The park will be expanded to accommodate 6,000 fans over the next few years. It measures 340 feet down the lines, 370 in the alleys and 400 in center. Overlooked by the football practice facility in right field, the Tigers have their postseason history mounted and documented (six College World Series appearances and the 1954 national championship).
Kyle Martin raised eyebrows in batting practice when he launched a ball onto the roof of the facility. The distance was listed at 420 feet, with the height several feet above that.
NO BAUBLES: Although the series isn't over, there will be no Mayor's Trophy for the winner of the series, as there was for the inaugural football game between the two. Hyped as the "Battle for Columbia," the Gamecocks got a sterling silver cup to sit in Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin's office until Missouri wins in football.
RIGHT THERE WITH YOU, BOSS: Holbrook won his first SEC game in his first try, mimicking Ray Tanner's 17-3 win over Auburn on March 7, 1997. Tanner lost his first series, though.
Tanner's predecessor, June Raines, lost his first SEC game 4-1 to LSU on March 21, 1992, in the first game of a doubleheader. The Tigers swept the Gamecocks to give him a series loss at well.
GET USED TO HIM: Missouri catcher and cleanup hitter Dylan Kelly will play for the Columbia Blowfish this summer.
I REMEMBER THIS: As USC radio man Andy Demetra pointed out, USC pitching coach Jerry Meyers once threw a complete game against Missouri while pitching at Iowa State.
TRAVEL ROSTER: The usual 27-man limit for SEC series was in effect.
USC brought: Tanner English, Connor Bright, Joel Seddon, Shon Carson, TJ Costen, Joey Pankake, Sean Sullivan, Jack Wynkoop, Evan Beal, Nolan Belcher, Chase Vergason, Dante Rosenberg, DC Arendas, LB Dantzler, Grayson Greiner, Max Schrock, Vince Fiori, Brison Celek, Adam Westmoreland, Graham Saiko, Forrest Koumas, George Iskenderian, Kyle Martin, Curt Britt, Tyler Webb, Patrick Sullivan and Colby Holmes.
Patrick Harrington, Ahmad Christian, Tyler Jackson, Josh Knab, Jordan Montgomery, Erik Payne, Alex Satterfield and Drake Thomason stayed in Columbia.
Team SEC Overall
Florida 1-0 9-10
South Carolina 1-0 16-2
Vanderbilt 1-0 17-2
Georgia 0-1 8-9
Kentucky 0-1 14-3
Missouri 0-1 5-8
Tennessee 0-1 9-8
Alabama 1-0 10-8
LSU 1-0 17-1
Ole Miss 1-0 19-1
Texas A&M 1-0 12-7
Arkansas 0-1 13-6
Auburn 0-1 13-4
Mississippi State 0-1 18-3
South Carolina 4, Missouri 1
Vanderbilt 5, Auburn 2
Texas A&M 4, Georgia 1
Florida 4, Kentucky 1
LSU 6, Mississippi State 4 (10)
Ole Miss 7, Arkansas 1
Alabama 12, Tennessee 1
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