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January 27, 2013

Scrimmage observations, Vol. 2

South Carolina continued preseason practice on Sunday. GamecockCentral.com's David Cloninger was there to offer some scrimmage impressions.

USC will scrimmage again next weekend. Times and dates will be determined later.

The Gamecocks will scrimmage every weekend for the next two weekends. All scrimmages are open to the public. The season begins on Feb. 15.

Home -- LF Ahmad Christian, SS DC Arendas, DH Kyle Martin, 3B George Iskenderian, 2B Connor Bright, DH Brison Celek, CF Shon Carson, C Dante Rosenberg, 1B Ryan Ripken, EH Sean Sullivan, RF Zack Smith, EH Weber Pike, P Evan Beal, P Vince Fiori, P Alex Satterfield, P Cameron Tewksbury, P Austin Hill

Visitor -- CF Tanner English, LF Graham Saiko, 2B Max Schrock, SS Joey Pankake, C Grayson Greiner, 1B LB Dantzler, RF TJ Costen, DH Erik Payne, EH Patrick Harrington, 3B Chase Vergason, EH Kwinton Smith, P Adam Westmoreland, P Hunter Privette, P Kris Nelson, P Drake Thomason, P Tyler Jackson

Chad Holbrook says:

On the first two scrimmages:
"I think on the good side, the thing to take away from the weekend is the way our pitchers threw, especially our front-line guys. Montgomery, Colby, Webb, Wynkoop, Seddon. Those guys threw very well yesterday. Westmoreland, I thought, pitched today like he had something to prove, which was encouraging to see. Position players, obviously, I think the thing that was most apparent this weekend was the play of Ahmad. Not surprising to me. I think he's a really, really good player. Obviously, he showed that. It's just two scrimmages, it's just one weekend, but he did very well. For the most part, we played pretty good defense. Our infielders picked it up pretty good, the ones that are going to play a lot. You pitch and play defense, you got a chance to win. Grayson was very good behind the plate. Our catchers were very good defensively, but a long, long way to go. A super long way to go. To be honest with you, I think we were about a 'C' this weekend."

On Ahmad Christian:
"I thought that it would take him a little bit of time just to see live pitching. But, he's kind of a natural at this game. He's going to have bad days, but the game comes easy to Ahmad. He doesn't try to do too much. He just tries to put the ball in play, use his athleticism. He's very relaxed out there. He's a baseball player. It's apparent the way he handles himself is neat. I told you I wouldn't doubt him being in the starting lineup on April 15. It might be March 15. It might be February 15. If he deserves to play, I'm going to play him, I'm going to tell you that, whether it's Game 1 or Game 10."

On Shon Carson:
"Shon is very athletic, obviously can run like crazy, made a great play, did some good things. He would have been safe on that bunt if he wouldn't have tripped over the bat. Shon will get going. He'll be fine. He just needs more at-bats, he needs more work in practice, because his injury was a tough one to overcome. Ahmad wasn't hurt. Two, he's been away from the game longer than Ahmad because Ahmad got some reps last year. He's a little bit more removed from the game than Ahmad is."

On having several able first basemen:
"LB played a lot today, but LB was a disappointment today. He's our captain and he struck out four times looking. He wasn't very impressive over there. He's got to play better. They get plenty of reps in practice. We try to give everyone an opportunity to play. We've got a number of first basemen. There are probably three in my mind that are actually going to play in a game, three that have the ability to play this year. And those guys are getting most of the reps. They will continue to get most of the reps as we get closer to Opening Day."

On Evan Beal:
"Evan's talented. He's just got to pitch better. If he can throw strikes and pitch, and compete, he'll pitch. If he can't, he won't."

On Tanner English and switch-hitting:
"I continue to be encouraged by that. I think he'll continue to get better. He's going to have some tough days. What he's trying to do in a short span of time is very difficult. Because it's new to him, I'm extremely encouraged by it. He's farther along than I thought he'd be at this time. He continues to get better, he continues to get more comfortable and his bunt game's gotten a lot better, left-handed, even though he hasn't really shown it in a scrimmage yet."

As Holbrook, said, English's switch-hitting is really coming along. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's vital to the season's success, but it's definitely going to be a huge piece if he can pick it up. He may struggle some early against opposing pitching, but he'll get the hang of it. Yes, he struck out 71 times last year, but he also hit darn near .300 even with those.

Beal just didn't have a good day, which is concerning considering he had a bad fall. He gave up four runs in two innings (three due to a dropped fly ball from the outfield) and threw one wild pitch (two others were judged passed balls). He also walked two and hit one batter. For what it's worth, Matt Price had an awful fall before the 2010 season, and you see how that turned out. But to see Beal, who pitched very well in Omaha last year, continue to struggle is mystifying. I think you can tell from Holbrook's comments that the light needs to come on, and soon. Beal has the talent, but he's not using it. This is why Tyler Webb is going to start the season at closer.

Shon Carson made a great diving catch to a ball to his right in center field. No doubt about his athleticism, and I think he's very likely to make the roster and be able to make an impact. He also had a comedic moment, where he dropped a bunt on the very first at-bat of the scrimmage. He was going to be safe, it was that good a bunt, but he tripped over the bat, somersaulted and got to his feet. LB Dantzler had him easily down the first-base line, and picked up the ball in his glove and held it out - but he never got the ball. It slipped right out, so he tagged him with the empty glove. But Carson ran out of the basepath anyway.

Sammy Esposito already had a comedic moment as well. A small child was waiting by the dugout waiting for Esposito to toss him a ball. Esposito refused, because the child was wearing a Clemson jacket. He offered to give him his USC jacket if the child would remove his Clemson jacket, but the child refused, so Esposito tossed the ball back into the dugout.

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