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February 9, 2014

Gamecocks complete final scrimmage

South Carolina scrimmaged for the final time this spring Sunday, and Gamecock Central was there.

If the season started today - and that sentence will be true come Friday - Joel Seddon has earned the right to be the Gamecocks' closer after capping the spring with a one-inning, three-strikeout performance Sunday, coach Chad Holbrook said.

Asked who he would go to if he found himself in a one-run game in the ninth on Friday, head coach Holbrook answered with certainty.

"I don't know how we do not put Seddon in there," Holbrook said. "He's going to start the season as the closer. I don't know if you label him 'closer,' but we feel comfortable with the way he's throwing.

He's experienced. He's older, He has command of all his pitches. He has some confidence. So right now, he's the one. I think he's gotten some confidence. I told him last weekend one of the neatest things for us coaches to see is when a kid comes as far as he's come from a confidence standpoint, a command standpoint. He's got a really good changeup, he's got a really good breaking ball and he's got enough on his fastball to throw it by you. And he's throwing all three pitches where he wants right now.

It'd be tough to not put him in there in a critical spot as we start the season. But Joel's versatile, too, and we could move him around. We could go to him early. He's in shape. He's an incredible athlete. But right now, I think (closer) would be the direction we would go."

In Sunday's scrimmage, the home side, comprised of the players expected to start this weekend, won 9-1 over a visiting team filled with backups and contenders.

"The (home) lineups the last two days, y'all are pretty smart enough to figure out, are the way we might go (Friday)," Holbrook said." Holbrook said. "They performed well. Nine runs and nine runs. Good at-bats. I'm proud of those guys"

The biggest at-bat of the day came in the bottom of the fifth. Already ahead 5-1, Eliott Caldwell singled off Josh Knab, who then walked DC Arendas. New pitcher Trey McNickle relieved Knab and promptly walked Tanner English, loading the bases for freshman Taylor Widener. Widener, who singled and scored the inning earlier, deposited the ball well over the fence in right field for a grand slam.

Holbrook said Widener's prowess as a hitter gives the coaches a lot to consider.

"He's a good player, and he's going to get some cracks at it both on the mound and obviously we love the way he swings the bat," Holbrook said. "He might be the only kid on our team that can mishit a ball and it goes out of the park, and with these bats that's saying something.

"He's going to be in there from time to time, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he got quite a few cracks.

"He's a talented kid, and those guys tend to find their way in there." Holbrook said he was pleased overall with his regulars, especially at the plate.

"Offensively I loved what we were doing," Holbrook said. "From a at-bat approach standpoint, we were very very difficult to strike out. We had a plan what we were trying to do, so it was nice seeing a young team do that. We played good defense for the most part."

With no more scrimmages until Opening Day Friday afternoon, Holbrook said his guys are healthy and ready to go.

"I think the guys are getting a little bit excited," Holbrook said. "You can kind of tell there's a little bit more energy around here with the anticipation of the start of the season. I think the guys are anxious about getting started.

"We had some really good things happen this weekend. Montgomery threw the ball extremely well, (Jack) Wynkoop was good, Will Crowe was good, Seddon was very good out of the bullpen. We have some things going in a positive way.

"We're healthy going into the weekend, and that's most important. All in all, a good weekend."

WHO'S AT SHORT?: The short answer is the jury is still out.

"I don't know," Holbrook said. "Both kids have won the job, and that makes it difficult for me. But that being said, both kids are going to play. I don't know who will start Friday. It's going to be very difficult for Mooney not to be in there somewhere and it's going to be very difficult for DC not to be in there.

"Do I play Joey (Pankake) in left to start the season and hit third? I don't know. That's a decision I'm going to have to make. I think they'll all play this weekend, and we may have two different starters at shortstop over the course of the weekend. It'll play itself out.

"We can play three shortstops on the infield at one time, and that's good for a coach, so I think we'll pick it up behind our pitching staff."

"WHO HITS FIRST?: According to Holbrook, if Marcus Mooney is in the game, it'll be him.

"I feel very comfortable with Tanner (English) in the nine-hole," Holbrook said. "I'm going to hesitate to move him out of that even though I want him to lead off. He's just comfortable down there and it seems when he plays well, that's where he's at.

"So I'll probably start the season, take some pressure off of him and keep him in the nine-hole. If Mooney's in there, he'll probably lead off, if not, I'll have to look at (Max) Schrock or somebody else.

"Who knows. I'm more worried about getting to 35 (squad members) than I am the opening day lineup."

LINEUP CUTS COMING: Holbrook has until Friday morning to reduce his spring roster from 40 players down to 37, only 27 of whom can be on scholarship. The other eight players will be walk-ons.

"I'm not so much anxious about the week in front of me (as the players are) with some difficult decisions to make," Holbrook said. "But that's part of it.

"It's going to be difficult. There's a couple kids I know I'll have to redshirt or cut that I want on our team that can help us play. I'm not saying I'm going to redshirt Matt Williams or Zack Madden, they both might be on there, but those two kids can play, and they can help us now. But I also have to weigh the fact that do we burn a year of eligibility when they play sparingly or do I get them a full four years after this year, because those kids have bright futures in our program.

"Those are the decisions I'm going to have to wrestle with and make a tough call on by opening day."

UP NEXT: South Carolina hosts Bucknell for a three game series beginning Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.

The Lineups
Visitors
CF Gene Cone, SS Jordan Gore, 1B Weber Pike, 3B Matt Williams, LF Zack Madden, LF/C Patrick Harrington, C Logan Koch, DH Jae Roberts, RF Brock Maxwell.

Home
SS Marcus Mooney, 2B Max Schrock, LF Joey Pankake, 1B Kyle Martin, RF Connor Bright, C Grayson Greiner, DH Elliott Caldwell, 4/5 DC Arendas, CF Tanner English, EH Taylor Widener.

Top hitters: Marcus Mooney (2-4, 2 RBI), Connor Bright (2-3, RBI, 2B, RS), Taylor Widener (2-3, HR, 4 RBI), Gene Cone (2-4, 2B), Zack Madden (2-4), Brock Maxwell (2-3, RS).

Pitching lines
Away
Tyler Haswell (L): 2.1 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 H, 4 BB
Josh Knab: 2 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 H, 2 BB
Trey McNickle: 0.2 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 H
Evan Beal: 2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, K
Reed Scott: 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, BB, K
Cody Mincey: 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, BB

Home
John Parke: 3 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 H
Preston Johnson (W): 3 IP, 0 R, 1 H
Alex Satterfield: 2.1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, K
Hunter Privette: 0.2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, K
Joel Seddon: 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 3 K



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