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February 2, 2014

Gamecocks getting their feet under them




South Carolina's baseball team isn't 100 percent, but head coach Chad Holbrook is optimistic the Gamecocks will be back to full strength by the season opener against Bucknell on Feb. 14.

Several notable Gamecocks missed or played sparsely in South Carolina's second weekend of preseason scrimmages.

The team suffered a scare in the first inning of Friday's scrimmage when sophomore Max Schrock strained a back muscle and didn't return. Schrock had just returned to 100 percent from a back injury he suffered over the summer, and Holbrook said he thought on Friday the newest ailment might keep his starting second baseman out for two weeks. But Schrock recovered well over the weekend and could start hitting as early as tomorrow.

"It's a muscle. He's tight as a banjo string just the way his body's built," Holbrook said. "It was an awkward play in the infield and he just reached a certain way and he just tweaked his lat, so it has nothing to do with his back injury from last year. He was much better today than he was last year."

Tanner English didn't scrimmage this weekend with tendonitis in his knee. Holbrook said English's MRI came back negative for any structural damage, but that the junior center fielder got an injection for pain and needed a couple of days. Holbrook says English will practice this week.

Sophomore DC Arendas played in every scrimmage this weekend, but didn't make throws because of tendonitis in his right elbow. Holbrook said Arendas threw some Sunday before the scrimmage, but they didn't want him throwing at game speed yet. Holbrook says Arendas, who has improved at the plate from a year ago, continues to impress, along with his competition at shortstop - JUCO transfer Marcus Mooney.

"Those kids playing pretty well," Holbrook said. "They both had errors today, but DC and Marcus continue to be bright spots of our team and I think we're going to need them both throughout the course of the year."

Junior catcher Grayson Greiner played sparingly this weekend with the flu, giving freshman Logan Koch and junior Patrick Harrington three full scrimmages to play behind the plate.

"It was good to see some of those younger guys catch today and move the scrimmage along pretty good," Holbrook said. "I thought Logan and Patrick did very well, and that was encouraging to see because we can't catch Grayson Greiner every single game, and that was neat to see."

Holbrook says Koch improved as the weekend progressed in terms of his demeanor and handling the pitching staff.

"We're trying to help him understand that that position has got to be played with energy; it's got to be played with enthusiasm," Holbrook said. "He could get by with certain things in high school that he can't get by with now. He's starting to figure that out. Coach Esposito has done a great job with him. I think he got through to him this weekend. He caught the ball extremely well and handled our pitching staff pretty well."

Holbrook says he won't worry himself over the Gamecocks' nagging injuries, but hopes the team will be back to full strength soon.

"Well, it's better to have it now, you know, than in the middle of the year," Holbrook said. "I think we'll be full board, about ready to go, 100 percent when Grayson gets rid of the flu, Max's muscle comes down, Joey's shoulder's getting better - he's a little banged up. I think we'll be healthy and 100 percent by the middle of this week, and hopefully we'll have a very good, productive weekend this weekend."

Less than two weeks from opening day, South Carolina's bullpen is far from sorted out. Holbrook says he likes what he's seen from freshman Wil Crowe, who pitched three scoreless innings with five strikeouts Friday, and freshman Matt Vogel, who has "probably the best stuff on our team as far as just closer stuff."

Holbrook says both right-handers - as well as freshman lefty Josh Reagan - will play prominent roles and pitch plenty of innings, but that he doesn't know how it will all work itself out by opening day.

"How we do it, you know, do we just throw a freshman into that mess, I don't know," Holbrook said. "That's something me and coach Myers are going to have to continue to discuss. The good thing is whoever we put there in the eighth or ninth inning is going to have some ability, going to have the ability to get some strikeouts."

SCRIMMAGE REPORT.

The home team used a five-run comeback to beat the away team 9-6. The teams played nine innings, with four pitchers taking the mound for each team. Both teams wore garnet hats, white pants and grey jerseys with garnet sleeves.

The away team pushed ahead 5-2 in the top of the fourth inning, but the home team plated a run in the bottom of the frame off of Josh Knab.

In the fifth inning, Kyle Martin drilled a double off the wall in left-center, but stretched it to third when the ball caromed off the bullpen wall and between Zack Madden and Brock Maxwell. Martin's headfirst slide into third was the highlight of the play though, as he decided too late to slide and seemed to crash into the base, drawing applause and laughter from the crowd and dugout. Martin would score on a sac fly a batter later to trim the lead to 5-4.

The home team tied the score at 5-5 when Joey Pankake slapped an RBI single up the middle in the sixth inning, then it took the lead in the seventh thanks to Marcus Mooney.

The JUCO transfer roped a double down the third base line off Alex Satterfield, then stole third easily. He and Weber Pike would push the lead to 7-5 two batters later when Taylor Widener's fielding error at first base allowed an easy out to sneak into right field.

Widener redeemed himself in the top of the ninth, chopping a two-out RBI single into center field to shave the lead to 7-6. But the home team plated two additional (and unnecessary) runs in the bottom of the ninth to polish off the game and the weekend.

LINEUPS.
Home: CF Gene Cone, LF Elliott Caldwell, 3B Joey Pankake, 1B Kyle Martin, DH Grayson Greiner, RF Connor Bright, SS Marcus Mooney, EH Weber Pike, C Logan Koch

Pitchers: Tyler Haswell, Josh Knab, Trey McNickle, Cody Mincey

Away: 2B Jordan Gore, SS DC Arendas, 3B Matt Williams, 1B Taylor Widener, DH Brison Celek, RF Jae Roberts, LF Zack Madden, CF Brock Maxwell

Pitchers: John Parke, Preston Johnson, Alex Satterfield, Hunter Privette




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