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February 8, 2013

Final preseason weekend begins



South Carolina scrimmaged for the seventh time during preseason camp on Friday in front of a sparse crowd at Carolina Stadium. The 2013 season-opener is at 3 p.m. on Feb. 15 against Liberty in the first of a three-game weekend series.

Home -- CF Tanner English, LF Graham Saiko, 2B Max Schrock, SS Joey Pankake, 3B LB Dantzler, C Grayson Greiner, DH Erik Payne, RF TJ Costen, 3B Chase Vergason, EH Ryan Ripken
Visitor -- CF Shon Carson, LF Ahmad Christian, 3B George Iskenderian, DH Brison Celek, 1B Kyle Martin, SS DC Arendas, 2B Connor Bright, RF Sean Sullivan, C Dante Rosenberg, EH Patrick Harrington

SCRIMMAGE SUMMARY: Brison Celek has just 66 at-bats in his first two years with the USC program, and he's battling during preseason camp to become one of USC's regular designated hitters in 2013.

Celek made a loud statement on Friday, crushing a three-run homer into the left field stands off freshman Curt Britt in the top of the 10th inning of the first of three scrimmages this weekend.

Celek's blast was the second of two homers on the day. Grayson Greiner ripped a Colby Holmes pitch over the fence in straightaway center in the bottom of the second for a solo homer, jump-starting a 2-for-4 day for the sophomore catcher from Blythewood.

The home team, which consisted mainly of starters, added a run in the bottom of the fourth when newcomers Graham Saiko and Max Schrock perfectly executed the double steal in a first-and-third situation.

Saiko (1-for-2 with a walk) squibbed an infield single and Schrock (1-for-3) followed with a single to left off Holmes to put runners on the corners with no outs.

The visiting team (reserves) tallied a run in the fifth when Connor Bright doubled, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on an RBI groundout by Dante Rosenberg.

Neither team scored a run until the bottom of the ninth when Joey Pankake singled and Greiner delivered a run-scoring double for his second RBI of the afternoon.

After Celek crushed a pitch from Britt several rows up into the left-field bleachers, the home team threatened in the bottom half of the 10th against closer Tyler Webb.

TJ Costen drew a walk and moved to second on a single by third baseman Chase Vergason (two hits). Ryan Ripken (two walks) grounded into a forceout at second before Tanner English, continuing to bat left-handed in order to take full advantage of his blazing speed, rapped into a 6-4-3 double play to end the scrimmage.

Sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery and Holmes, USC's top two starting pitchers, each worked four innings in their final scrimmage tuneups before next week's season-opening series against Liberty.

Holmes set down the first five home hitters until Greiner rocketed a pitch from the senior right-hander over the center-field fence for a 1-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the second.

Montgomery faced little resistance in his four innings of work, facing just two batters over the minimum. He ended the first and second innings with twin killings before retiring the side in order in the third.

In his final inning, Montgomery allowed a leadoff single to Patrick Harrington and a one-out bloop single to left-center by Ahmad Christian. Both runners moved up on a come-backer to the mound. Montgomery retired Kyle Martin to end the threat.

Holmes wasn't as fortunate, allowing two runs on three hits with one walk in his four-inning stint.

Junior-college transfer Josh Knab (USC-Sumter) took over for Holmes in the bottom of the fifth and worked three effective innings against the starters. The right-hander from Conway allowed two hits and two walks, but no runs.

Submariner Hunter Privette pitched the eighth and ninth innings, allowing the RBI-double by Greiner, before giving way to Webb for the 10th.

Senior captain Patrick Sullivan followed Montgomery to the mound and hurled three innings for the home team, yielding one run on Rosenberg's RBI groundout and one hit.

Britt, a hard-throwing freshman from Laurinburg, N.C., pitched three innings as he strives to find a starting or middle relief role.

Defensively, Shon Carson roamed the wide swath of land ranging from left-center to right-center with the flair of a veteran, making several catches on the run. With his impressive speed, the Lake City product should add valuable depth in the outfield in 2013.

USC will scrimmage again at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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