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May 9, 2012

Greiner, young players growing up

Ray Tanner exclaimed recently that South Carolina's freshmen had to stop viewing themselves as young, inexperienced players. In short, with more than 40 games in the books, they had crossed the bridge.

Grayson Greiner was obviously listening.

The freshman catcher enjoyed one of the best weekends of his career when USC journeyed to Fayetteville, Ark., last weekend and took two of three games from Arkansas.

Greiner caught all 28 innings over the weekend and threw out five Arkansas runners trying to steal a base. His two-run home run on Friday was the first allowed this season by Arkansas starter Ryne Stanek, and helped key USC's rally from a six-run deficit to pull out an 8-6 win. He added an RBI single in the 10th inning.

During Sunday's 10-7 series-clinching win, Greiner drove in two runs with a single in USC's six-run eighth inning.

In 24 SEC games, Greiner is hitting .301 (22-for-73) with three homers, 18 RBI, eight doubles, 14 runs scored and a .418 on-base percentage. Greiner has raised his average to .261 (36-for-168) with six homers and 31 RBI on the year.

Greiner has grown up significantly over the past couple of months.

"Grayson Greiner was a big leaguer behind the plate for us all weekend long," USC associate head coach Chad Holbrook said on Monday on 107.5 The Game. "He threw out their baserunners. He caught incredibly well and had a big hit on Friday. He was terrific."

Greiner, who starred at Blythewood High School, was rated as one of the top prep catchers in the country when he signed with USC.

"When Grayson committed here, I said he was one of the best high school catchers in the country," Holbrook said. "He showed over the three games in Arkansas how good he can be and how good he's going to be. He was terrific."

Holbrook has seen most of USC's young players, including Greiner, change the way they approach the game in a positive way.

"Until you get into your mind that this is about winning, you won't play up to your capability individually," Holbrook said. "It's only natural for young players to put pressure on themselves to individually do well. But when they consume themselves with winning and what I can do to help the team, they get lost in the game and start playing up to their capabilities.

"That's what you're seeing over the past couple of weeks. The 'We have to win this game' attitude has taken over our dugout. They've put their selfish interests on the back burner. Because of that, they're performing up to their talent level."

But the veterans have stepped up as well. Battling a hamstring ailment, junior first baseman Christian Walker reached base nine times in the Arkansas series as he went 5-for-12 (.417) with a homer, two RBI, four walks and four runs scored. His on-base percentage for the weekend was .563.

For the season Walker leads USC with a .347 average (59-for-170), nine homers and 45 RBI.

"We were concerned all weekend and remain concerned. Hamstring injuries are very finicky," Holbrook said. "We had him stay off his feet (Monday). He does have to stretch from time to time. We have to let that continue to heal because those things can flare up at anytime. But if he can walk, he'll play. You don't have to worry about Christian's toughness or his desire to play or to help our team win. He's a warrior."

Another veteran who has stepped up in recent weeks is senior outfieler Adam Matthews, who gunned down an Arkansas runner attempting to score on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning of last Sunday's win and then threw out a runner trying to score off a base hit from second base in the seventh inning.

In the same game, he also had a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning. The previous weekend, Matthews smacked a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift USC to a 1-0 win over Alabama. Three of Matthews' four homers have been in SEC play.

"I'm so proud of Adam Matthews with the two throws he made," Holbrook said. "They kept us in the game and kept our guys believing. He also had a big two-out, two-strike hit. There is not a better kid in our dugout than Adam Matthews. He's the type of kid you want your daughter to marry. He's a salt-of-the-earth type of kid. He always does and says the right thing and works extremely hard."

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D. McCallum

South Carolina NEWS


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