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April 9, 2013

Hot-hitting Schrock looks to continue streak



THE CITADEL (17-16) at NO. 11 SOUTH CAROLINA (26-7)
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Carolina Stadium, Columbia
Tickets: Available at the box office
TV: None
Probable starting pitchers: The Citadel - RHP Austin Livingston (2-0, 6.48 ERA). South Carolina -- RHP Joel Seddon (1-0, 5.11)
Notes: South Carolina is at home for the only time in eight games. … The Gamecocks beat The Citadel 9-5 three weeks ago in Charleston, riding three home runs and a strong pitching performance from Jack Wynkoop. … Designated hitter Brison Celek is hitting .333 on the year, keyed by a .455 weekend at Tennessee. Celek drove in four runs, scored five more and cracked his first career home run. … Tyler Webb is seven appearances behind Matt Price for the most in school history. … Outfielder TJ Costen may be cleared to play after a shoulder injury cost him the weekend series, but Connor Bright is hitting .292 in his stead.
Next up: USC plays at Florida at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in the first of a three-game series.


It wasn't false praise. Chad Holbrook meant every word he said about Max Schrock.

He was an outstanding hitter. He was one of South Carolina's best hitters during the fall. He earned the No. 3 spot in the order and was so good that Holbrook moved two veterans of a national runner-up, LB Dantzler and Chase Vergason, to different positions just to get Schrock on the field every day. The comparisons to Christian Walker, even knowing that Walker had battled a severe slump during his freshman year, were frequent.

Holbrook knew that Schrock would be a great player. He didn't think anything of it when Schrock spent the first half of the season not hitting very well. Walker had come through it and gone on to be one of the greatest hitters the program has ever seen.

But Schrock never broke out of it. He went through the first half of the season barely hitting above his weight - not a problem when you're a hulking designated hitter, a big problem when you're a 175-pound second baseman.

Coach and player met after the halfway point. They decided that a fresh start was best - not in terms of sitting down, but of doing it in the head.

Schrock's first game was going to be Game 29. His batting average was .000. Holbrook told him to go out and play the game, then see where it was, and after that, in Game 30, his average would be .000 again, and the two would still be there.

Since then, Schrock has raised his average to .264. His swing, as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar in the fall, is back to its same smooth motion. He hit .500 during five games last week, driving in eight runs, including the game-winning one in the first game of the Tennessee series, and was named SEC Freshman of the Week because of it.

It's going to be OK.

"That was an emotional hit for me, I'm going to be honest, it was," Schrock said after the Tennessee game-winner. "Hoping that that can get me back on the right track, where I need to be."

It seems to be. The baby-faced hitter, resembling actor Shia LeBeouf with a clean-shaven face but having grown back the dark beard that makes him look like a sharp-clawed member of the X-Men, is much more confident than he was.

"That was a big, big swing of the bat considering the situation, how important this game was, and after what had just happened to us in the bottom of the eighth there," Holbrook said. "That was his biggest hit as a Gamecock, for sure."

Schrock should be playing second and hitting high in the order tonight when The Citadel visits, the No. 11 Gamecocks' only game before facing a short turnaround and hitting the road again on Wednesday to play Florida, beginning on Thursday.

Might as well ride the hot hand. A confident player is not a bad thing to have in the lineup.

"It's a new season," Schrock recently said. "I'm trying to make the most of it."



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