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February 11, 2012

Scrimmage observations, Vol. 8



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.

The Gamecocks will scrimmage at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, its final preseason scrimmage leading to Friday's season-opener.

Visitor -- 2B TJ Costen, SS Connor Bright, RF Sean Sullivan, 1B Kyle Martin, 3B Erik Payne, C Dante Rosenberg, DH Brison Celek, LF Jake Williams, EH Tanner Lovick, CF Seth Constable, P Colby Holmes

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

The Home team won 4-3.

Rough defensive day, especially at second base. TJ Costen and Chase Vergason each had some boots that you don't want to see a week before the season-opener, but it's a scrimmage. Perhaps the weather - very cold, wind blowing out to right field all day - had something to do with it, but a lot of it was just not watching the ball into the glove.

Costen had one gaffe that was ruled a hit, when he played in and a hard-hit ball was smacked to him. He tried to get his glove up to get it on his side, but the ball skipped under and two runs scored. Like I said, ruled a hit, but he's got to at least knock that ball down and limit the damage. His recorded error was when the ball hit him in the glove and fell right back out.

Vergason had some moments too, especially when he got down in position to field a routine grounder and it went right through his legs (he "Bucknered" it). That being said, he also knocked three RBIs and took a beanball to the neck but walked it off. I said it in the fall and after the fall, and before the spring, and I'm saying it again - Costen will play, but Vergason will start at second. Ray Tanner said he always had the edge due to his junior-college experience, and he's shown he can hit. Costen will play, because he's probably the better hitter and he can run, but he won't start.

Matt Price was Matt Price. After he and Forrest Koumas combined to give up a home-run derby last weekend, Price was back to form. Costen dropped a double on him to lead off the game, but Price quickly sat down the rest of the frame and then worked past a leadoff single from Erik Payne in the second. He struck out Jake Williams on a vicious moving fastball, one where the ball was in the catcher's glove before Williams was a quarter of the way around on his swing. Had four strikeouts in four innings and despite that Errol Flynn-esque mustache, looks as good as he ever did.

Really liked how Nolan Belcher has looked this spring. He's attacked his rehab, because it hit him so hard last year when he was hurt just before the season. He knew that he could have been a big part of the 2010 team, but didn't; he came into 2011 at his best and then got hurt. He looks great, with almost all of his velocity back and his curve as sharp as ever. Because there is so much competition for that mid-week spot (Joel Seddon, Evan Beal, Adam Westmoreland, Patrick Sullivan, Drake Thomason, Jordan Montgomery), Belcher and the others will probably all be given a look over the first two weekends. The first mid-week game isn't until after those two weekends, so there's plenty of time to decide.

Joey Pankake is going to be very fun to watch. I realize it's only scrimmages, but he seems to have no qualms about fitting into that historical run of shortstops. He has a great arm - on one play, the ball got to his glove and this hand so fast that I never saw the exchange. Before I knew it, it was on the way to first. Has kind of cooled at the plate recently, but he'll break out. He's definitely more offensive than predecessors Bobby Haney and Peter Mooney were, although Mooney developed into a very solid hitter. Pankake is just put together so solidly that I daresay he'll smack a few out this year.

Grayson Greiner had three singles on Saturday after grounding into a double play his first time up. Dante Rosenberg is also doing well behind the plate, but I really think Tanner will stick Greiner behind the plate on Opening Day. I just keep thinking of that Landon Powell comparison.

Tanner English is still kind of punchless from a hitting standpoint, but he's getting on base. He got plunked and walked on Saturday, and when he was beaned, he immediately stole second base. His speed is so valuable that Tanner will find a way to get him on the field, although I don't think he'll hit leadoff for a while - he simply hasn't been that consistent and the Gamecocks always have Evan Marzilli or Adam Matthews to handle that leadoff spot. That's a lot of speed, though, especially if English could maybe get a few base knocks from the bottom of the lineup and be a table-setter.

PITCHING
Holmes - 4IP, 5H, 3R, BB, HBP, 3K
Westmoreland - 2IP, 2H, HBP, 2K
Seddon - 2IP, H, R, BB
Price - 4IP, 2H, 4K
Belcher - 2IP, 2H, R, K
Koumas - 2IP, H, 2R, 2BB, HBP, 2K

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