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January 27, 2012

Scrimmage observations, Vol. 1

South Carolina began official preseason practice on Friday as the back-to-back national champions returned to the field. GamecockCentral.com's David Cloninger was there to offer some scrimmage impressions.

USC will scrimmage again at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Like all scrimmages, they will be free and open to the public.

The Gamecocks will scrimmage in each of the next two weekends as well, leading to the Feb. 17 season-opener. Times will be announced later.

Garnet team -- 2B TJ Costen, C Dante Rosenberg, 1B Kyle Martin, SS Connor Bright, LF Sean Sullivan, 3B Erik Payne, DH Brison Celek, RF Ahmad Christian, CF Seth Constable, P Patrick Sullivan

Black team -- LF Tanner English, RF Adam Matthews, CF Evan Marzilli, 1B Christian Walker, 3B LB Dantzler, C Grayson Greiner, SS Joey Pankake, 2B Chase Vergason, P Michael Roth

The highlight of the day was in the fifth inning, when Dantzler, Greiner and Pankake hit consecutive home runs off Drake Thomason. Dantzler's settled well over the right-center bullpen while Greiner and Pankake went into the left-field bleachers, Pankake's almost caught but hitting the yellow line and then off a glove. The new guys are a confident bunch, Roth says, and they showed it.

Thomason had a bad, bad day, giving up the three homers and then being sent out for the sixth despite the starters having already won the game. The lead went from 6-2 to 9-2 when Thomason couldn't get an out in the sixth - he gave up three singles, two doubles and a wild pitch before Ray Tanner ended the scrimmage. Thomason will pitch this season, either as a midweek starter or a reliever, but obviously needs to further himself from the pack in order to be one of the first chosen. A lot of pitchers struggled on Friday, though, after spending the winter indoors.

Roth was roughed up, being tagged for two doubles, two singles and two runs in two innings. He only had one strikeout. It seemed like Roth's pitches had no dip on them, no bite, but he's been in the weight room all winter and hasn't faced live hitting. Nothing to worry about there, and it was good to see players such as Costen, Rosenberg, Bright and Payne get solid knocks off of an All-American.

Marzilli and Vergason nearly homered, but had their fly balls dip just inside the wall or off it. Each showed a lot of pop, though, which is a reason they will probably each be in the starting lineup. Marzilli may even hit leadoff - he is competing with Matthews for that spot. Tanner English can obviously fly, but as Tanner and many others say, "you can't steal first." He's got be more consistent with the bat.

Matthews seemed completely healthy after his hamstring robbed him of a potentially great year last season. He probably would have scored had he been running full-speed on one long fly ball, when he started on first, but there's no need to rush it on the first day. Matthews is vital this year.

Dantzler gobbled up a fielder's choice grounder and threw home for a force-out to save a run. He's clearly the third baseman, and if you're wondering (I wrote on this during the summer), "LB" stands for "Little Brad." His dad is also a Brad.

Christian did start and you can tell that he's a natural athlete. He's with the team and will be until the roster cutdown, when he will most likely be cut. Not that he's not a good player, but he wasn't going to show up and unseat somebody who had been there for the entire fall in just three weeks. Ray Tanner said afterward that Christian and Shon Carson are very good and could join the team at some point in the future (as in, next season or beyond), but they have to come and beat somebody out, which will be difficult since fall practice is during football season.

Constable also played, but as Tanner said, he is likely to redshirt. His leg simply hasn't healed enough after he had to have out-patient surgery halfway through the fall. The redshirt will not count against the 34-man roster restriction.

Roth - 2 IP, 4H (2 2B), 2R, K
Privette - 2 IP, BB, 3K
Munson - 2 IP, K
P. Sullivan - 2 IP, 2H, R, 2K
Webb - 2 IP, 3H, 2R, BB, HBP, K
Thomason - 1 IP, 8H, 6R, WP

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