Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
September 17, 2013
Fall baseball is officially three scrimmages in, and there has been a lot to be encouraged about going forward.
Clearly, the center of this team is the powerful nucleus formed defensively up the middle with Grayson Greiner behind the plate and Tanner English in center, then flaking them, Max Schrock at second, Kyle Martin at first and Joey Pankake likely at third. Martin, Schrock, Greiner and Pankake can crush the ball and should provide the offfensive core, while the speedy English continues to work on the things that could make him a terrific leadoff man and base-stealer.
So in the field, we're looking at newbies at shortstop and in right and left field. One of those positions appears to be set in stone: Marcus Mooney at shortstop. In Sunday's scrimmage, he made a play on a ball scorched deep to his left, grabbed it in the tip of his glove, spun a 360 and fired a chest-high strike to Kyle Martin for the out. It was a play no one made from that position in all of 2013.
What's more, Mooney also has shown an adeptness at turning double plays, making the duo of he and the superb defensive second baseman Schrock something truly special.
Combine them with the wow-factor defensively of English and Greiner, and South Carolina will not face another team this year, no matter how far it goes, with better up-the-middle defense.
Spelling Mooney - and competing hard for the shortstop position - is sophomore DC Arendas. He also is nobody's slouch defensively, being a part of two slick double plays on Friday and collecting two hits each on Friday and Sunday to make a strong case for time. Between he and Mooney, it's safe to say the Gamecocks are set at shortstop and, thus, in the infield for 2014. Quality depth also isn't an issue, with proven players such as Connor Bright, who can play the infield or outfield, and Brison Celek there to use to spell Schrock and Martin, respectively, at second, first and designated hitter.
Now, those outfield holes. Gone for good are T.J. Costen and Graham Saiko, taking 78 outfield starts last season with them. Coach Chad Holbrook has multiple contenders for those two roles - freshmen Gene Cone, Brock Maxwell, Zach Madden, Ray Murphy and Jae Roberts; redshirt freshman Anthony Paulsen and junior college transfer Elliott Caldwell.
Of those names, Maxwell is the most highly touted freshman, rated the 10th best prospect out of the state of Georgia lase season, while Caldwell was rated the eighth-best junior college prospect in the nation out of Spartanburg Methodist. Caldwell also can play third base - at Wren Hugh School he was rated the third-best third baseman in South Carolina in the state - which gives him some flexibility should the coaching staff want to plant Pankake in left.
Sunday, Maxwell and Cone were forces at the plate, with both going 3-for-4 and Cone, who was playing center field, making a tremendous diving catch a la Tanner English or even Jackie Bradley Jr.
Both players' performance had Holbrook impressed enough to consider them as immediate candidates for those outfield roles, and all Murphy did was smash a grand slam over the left-field wall. What is clear is that Holbrook has recruited to need here, and his charges show every indication of being able to perform at a high level now and for seasons to come.
On the mound, we know what to expect from ace Jordan Montgomery and emerging ace Jack Wynkoop. The battle, then, is for that third starting role and for a truly wide-open bullpen. Next week we'll look at that pitching staff from top to bottom as the first three scrimmages have only given us two innings per player to go off, which isn't much. We should be better able to form opinions next week, especially about some of the newcomers to the staff who are stars-in-waiting. Hope to see you at a game this weekend!
South Carolina NEWS