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January 28, 2012

Scrimmage observations, Vol. 2



South Carolina continued preseason practice on Saturday 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 Sunday. Like all scrimmages, it is 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.

Visitor -- DH Ahmad Christian, 2B TJ Costen, SS Connor Bright, C Grayson Greiner, 1B Kyle Martin, DH Brison Celek, LF Sean Sullivan, RF Jake Williams, 3B Tanner Lovick, CF Seth Constable, P Colby Holmes

Home -- LF Evan Marzilli, CF Tanner English, 1B Christian Walker, 3B LB Dantzler, DH Erik Payne, RF Adam Matthews, C Dante Rosenberg, SS Joey Pankake, 2B Chase Vergason, P Matt Price

The Visitors won 4-2 with two runs in the seventh inning.

Not a very good defensive day, with five combined errors between the teams. Walker, Dantzler, Lovick, Forrest Koumas and Nolan Belcher each had one. Walker's was on a grounder to first that he charged, then figured that he should let Belcher have, and he gloved, dropped and bowled Belcher over. Dantzler made a great stab of Celek's line drive, but threw low to first and Walker couldn't scoop it. Lovick charged a bouncer on the line, tried to play it with just the glove and the ball bounced under it. Koumas had a bad pickoff throw to second, while Belcher tried to field a dribbler up the first-base line and had it fall out of his glove. I've noticed, in the fall as well, that when the team has one error, it has many. It's either feast or famine, at least in the scrimmages.

Martin and Williams had two hits each, Martin doubling to the wall in the fifth inning and Williams driving in the game-winning run in the seventh, with an RBI single through short. Martin backs up Walker at first but can also DH, and Williams will probably get some looks at DH if English wins an outfield role. English is an outstanding defender and base-runner, but has to get some hits - he had a single on Saturday and knocked another hard-hit ball, but it was right to the shortstop. Williams had two RBIs.

Really good to see Belcher back on the mound. He didn't seem hesitant or nervous at all, despite it being almost an exact year since he was injured and then had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He was hurt during the first preseason scrimmage last year. He popped right back up after colliding with Walker, and didn't show any hesitation about throwing all of his pitches. He had a couple of runners reach on errors, but didn't allow any to score, and after he struck out Sullivan as his first batter, he got a rousing ovation from the dugout.

Price and Seddon breezed through their innings, with four combined strikeouts between them and just one walk. Price, who throws two different curveballs along with his fastball and slider, looked fine. He wasn't trying to do too much and strike everybody out, showing a good command of his pitches and ability to place it.

Westmoreland and Koumas struggled. Westmoreland, as per his usual, put his first batter on and struggled to get back on track. He gave up leadoff hits in each of his two innings, including a triple to Payne, but only had one run notched against him. Koumas was ripped for a leadoff double from Martin and then saw two runs score after back-to-back errors and Williams' RBI single. Like Michael Roth on Friday, nothing to obsess over, but obviously, Ray Tanner would like to see more.

TJ Costen will get on the field at some point. He's in a curious situation, being a backup infielder with a lot of talent in front of him, but he's got speed, good defense and he at least puts the ball in play. He reached on an error and then stole second base. His best chance to play consistently might be in the outfield, but there are obviously several to beat out this year. Perhaps there will be a platoon system at second or short and he can get a few innings in.

Marzilli was patrolling left field, about halfway between the infield and the wall, in a bases-loaded, one-out situation. He caught a shallow fly and knew the runner was going, but his relay throw was perfect. It bounced once and the tag was applied at the plate as the runner didn't slide. The defensive highlight of the day.

USC saw Payne lead off the fourth with a triple, one that he beat out by just sliding under the tag. But with nobody out and a man on third, the Gamecocks couldn't score. Matthews and Rosenberg each grounded out to third and Pankake grounded out to short.

Josh Knab pitched both halves of the seventh. He gave up two runs in the top to earn the loss, then went 1-2-3 in the bottom to earn the save. Seddon got the win.

PITCHING
Price - 2 IP, 2K
Belcher - 2 IP, 2K
Koumas - 2 IP, 2H, 2R (1 ER), K
Holmes - 2 IP, R (unearned), H, BB, 2K
Westmoreland - 2 IP, 3H, R,
Seddon - 2 IP, BB, 2K
Knab - 2 IP, 2R, 4H, BB, K

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