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February 9, 2013

Scrimmage observations, Vol. 8

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

USC will scrimmage again at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. It is the final scrimmage of preseason camp before Friday's season-opener. It is open to the public.

Home -- EH Tanner English, LF Graham Saiko, 2B Max Schrock, SS Joey Pankake, 1B LB Dantzler, C Grayson Greiner, DH Erik Payne, CF TJ Costen, 3B Chase Vergason, RF Kwinton Smith

Visitor -- RF Ahmad Christian, CF Shon Carson, 2B Connor Bright, 3B George Iskenderian, DH Curt Britt, 1B Brison Celek, DH Kyle Martin, SS DC Arendas, C Dante Rosenberg, LF Sean Sullivan

* The defense left a lot to be desired today. While there were only a couple of actual errors, the number of miscues was mind-boggling. Apparently, right field became the Bermuda Triangle in the past week, because everybody had a problem playing it on Saturday.

Graham Saiko reached on a routine fly ball that Ahmad Christian broke the wrong way on. Christian later charged in on a pop fly, didn't hear Connor Bright calling for it while fading back from second and nearly collided with Bright. Christian cut a flip but was OK, and Bright caught the ball. Then Shon Carson finally put wood (composite?) on a ball, popped to right, Kwinton Smith broke the wrong way and it fell in. Carson cut the bag at second and tripped over it, turning a full somersault, before getting up and getting to third.

Then there was also George Iskenderian letting a relay from right bounce out of his glove to give Joey Pankake a triple (after Carson had dived far too short for a gapper to center), and the ball rolled dead near the pitcher's mound. Nobody was too quick to retrieve it, so Pankake hustled home. That's a two-run triple, and Pankake scored on the error.

Curt Britt also lashed a hot shot to the gap that got by third but was taken by the shortstop. Apparently, Britt thought the ball was through because he was already preparing to round first. He was thrown out by three feet.

I could see Chad Holbrook explaining how to shield the sun from the eyes during his post-scrimmage meeting with the team. Better to have the defensive yips now than next week. And Brison Celek did have an outstanding dive to his left to stop an early grounder. Celek has never been a defensive whiz, so that was good to see.

* DC Arendas also continued to show a good defensive presence at short. He's making all the stops and throws. His batting needs a little work, but I think he's earned a place as a late-inning defensive guy. Obviously, he's behind a lot of hitting infielders or he'd see more time.

* Nolan Belcher looked outstanding, back to his old self before Tommy John surgery. He was blowing people away with his assortment. It's good to see him out there, playing like he always has, evidence of just never giving up. I think he's getting into a battle with Jack Wynkoop for the Sunday starter role, and Wynkoop, for the past two weeks, has struggled to close his outings.

On Saturday, Wynkoop was fine through three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth. The defense didn't help him, Iskenderian dropping the relay and then another lazy fly dropping in between Carson and Sean Sullivan because nobody called it, but he also walked two and gave up three singles and a double. I can see that if USC needs to get the Sunday win over Liberty to clinch the series, or perhaps if Holbrook just wants a veteran out there on the first weekend, that Belcher could get the call.

Belcher also took an Iskenderian liner right off the small of his back. He was out there for a four-out inning, and the hit was the last batter he faced. Just drilled him right in the center. He walked it off, but I imagine he'll be sore tomorrow.

* Before Carson got that last hit to fall, he struck out three times on nine pitches. Got fooled by the off-speed a lot. He'll still make the team, and it should be noted he hit a homer last weekend. Just a bad day.

* Forrest Koumas threw two frames and looked good. No stiffness, no loss of range. I doubt they'll run him out there the first weekend after not pitching all fall, but it's good to see him come around. I know they'd rather have Tyler Webb in a long-relief or setup role instead of the full-time closer role (Webb will start the season at closer), and the development of Koumas is crucial to that. He can be the closer if he gets back to 100 percent.

* Evan Beal was good for two innings, but then the defense also let him down. He did walk three batters, though, which continues his struggle. As Holbrook said two weeks ago, he's got the talent. If he uses it, he'll pitch. If not, he won't.

* LB Dantzler got a much-needed RBI, among three hits. He's struggled to hit lately. Holbrook's not worried because he's a veteran guy, but the Gamecocks need that bat in the middle of the lineup.

* Max Schrock had three singles. He's good at baseball.

* Tanner English hit but didn't play the field. One of his hamstrings is a little tight. Probably nothing to worry about.

* Patrick Harrington seemed to hurt his wrist during a swing and came out, but he was still wearing his catcher's gear and had nothing on the tender hand afterward. Should be fine.

Wynkoop - 4IP, 5H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 3K
Belcher - 4IP, 2H, 3K
Koumas - 2IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 2K
Westmoreland - 3IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 4K
Beal - 2IP, 3H, 4R, 2ER, 3BB, 3K
Seddon - 3IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 1K
Fiori - 2IP, 2H, 3K

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