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February 22, 2013

Rainy day notes: Why Ripken was redshirted



Ryan Ripken isn't a part of South Carolina's baseball team in 2013 after he failed to make the final 35-man roster that was officially released the morning of last week's season-opener.

USC coach Chad Holbrook consulted with the Ripken family before the final decision was reached, and all parties agreed that a redshirt season was best for Ryan Ripken, who was selected in the 20th round of last June's Major League Baseball draft by the Baltimore Orioles, the only team his father Cal Ripken Jr. played for during a lengthy Hall-of-Fame career.

"I hope Ryan will be here for four years," Holbrook said on Thursday. "Ryan was good enough to help our team win this year. He was good enough to be on our 35-man roster."

Ripken struggled during fall practice as he sought to make the adjustment to major college baseball. He continued to scuffle during the early stages of preseason camp until the final weekend, when he had a pair of hits in the final two scrimmages.

But his success at the plate in the last few scrimmages was a classic case of too-little, too-late.

"Ryan, his parents and I had some discussions leading up to decision day," Holbrook said. "We just wanted to make sure we didn't jeopardize a year of his eligibility and he got only a minimal number of at-bats. It was too important to the family and to Ryan.

"We didn't want to waste a year with him just getting 15 or 20 at-bats. So we collectively made a decision that redshirting Ryan was in his best interests. It wasn't just my decision. I sat down with the family and we had a lot of conversations about it."

Last spring, Ripken was rated the top high-school prospect in Maryland by PerfectGameUSA, and the No. 312 high-school prospect in the nation after hitting .377 with 25 RBIs and 20 runs scored at Gilman (Md.) High School. He also went 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA in the mound, and lettered in basketball.

"Ryan is a good player. He was drafted. He has a bright future," Holbrook said. "I hope it's here at South Carolina. We want him to be here. I think he can have a great career here."

SATURDAY'S PITCHING MATCHUP: Jordan Montgomery will make the 15th start of his career at 4 p.m. on Saturday when the opening game of the Albany series is scheduled to get underway. The left-hander from Sumter threw six scoreless innings with five hits and five strikeouts against Liberty in a season-opening 4-3 victory last week. In the process, he extended his scoreless streak to 14 innings and won his third straight start dating to last season.

His career record is 7-1 with a 3.35 ERA in 80.2 innings with 34 runs and 94 hits allowed while striking out 62 and walking 12. Montgomery will be opposed by senior right-hander Kasceim Graham, who was 2-5 with a 5.37 ERA in 63.2 innings pitched in 2012. Graham will make his 2013 debut on Saturday.

REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY: Holbrook spent four seasons as an assistant coach under Ray Tanner before taking over as coach. One of the things he has learned while a head coach is how to deal with players when they're going well and when they're struggling.

"Coach Tanner taught me a lot about that," Holbrook said. "You have to praise them when they least expect it and maybe kick them in the rear when they least expect it. When they're doing well, let them know they can do better. And when they're not doing so well, let them know that you believe in them."

Holbrook believes that his team felt some opening-weekend pressure against Liberty. Will it play more relaxed this weekend with Albany in town? Holbrook hopes so.

"I think our kids felt a little pressure over the opening weekend," Holbrook said. "I never got the sense that we relaxed until we were down 7-0 in the eighth (of Game 2). All of a sudden, we started playing. I can't let that happen as a coach. I have to make sure it's a fun-loving group, it's a relaxed group and they play that way. I think you'll see a much more relaxed, carefree team against Albany."

NOTES
* Baseball membership in the America East Conference includes Albany, Binghamton, Maine, Stony Brook, Maryland-Baltimore County and Hartford.

* Albany's projected position starters:
C - Craig Lepre
1B - Greg Muller
2B - Brian Bullard
3B - Joey Tracy
SS - Gordon Madej
LF - D.J. Hoagboom
CF - Nolan Gaige
RF - Josh Nethaway
DH - Jeff Welsh

SEC RESULTS (Friday)
Kentucky 6, Elon 1
Alabama at Florida Atlantic
Arkansas 10, Evansville 4
Middle Tennessee State at Auburn
Florida Gulf Coast at Florida
Belmont at Georgia
Southeastern Louisiana at LSU
Ole Miss 8, Rhode Island 1
Purdue at Mississippi State
Memphis 6, Missouri 0
Arizona State 4, Tennessee 0
Pepperdine at Texas A&M
Vanderbilt 5, Monmouth 1



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