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February 14, 2014

Greiner eager to make mark

Projected as the No. 24 college draft prospect in the country by Baseball America, there's little doubt this will be junior catcher Grayson Greiner's last season for No. 7 South Carolina.

Just a freshman when the Gamecocks made the championship series in Omaha in 2012, Greiner now is a leader looking to leave his own mark on a program with a solid group of veterans aided by the nation's No. 3 recruiting class. Despite the new faces, the goal - as always - remains the same: win.

"I feel like it's me, Joey (Pankake), Jordan (Montgomery) and Hunter (Privette)'s team," Greiner said. "We've been named the four captains and we want to lead these guys back out there (Omaha).

"I'd say defensively we'll be a bit better than we've been in years past. We have six or seven returning position players, and this freshman class of pitchers is very very talented. If these guys can mature like I think they'll mature, I think we're going to have a really talented group. We all get along really well and are a tight-knit group. I think we'll be good.

"I think we have the team to be where we want to be at the end of the year. We have a good mix of older guys and younger guys. The hard work we put in over the offseason, we've grown closer together as a team. We just want to get the right 35 guys out there, it's going to take 35 of us to win every game and we're ready."

Tabbed by many the No. 2 catcher in the country behind Indiana's Kyle Scharber, Greiner finished the 2013 season third on the team in hitting (.298), fourth in RBIs (38) and tied for fourth with two other players in home runs (4).

"I worked on my swing a little bit in the offseason," Greiner said. "I just tried to get better in every aspect of the game. I put on some good weight. My flexibility is good. I'm ready."

Beyond his superb defense, Greiner's leadership qualities already are being utilized.

"I remember when I came in as a freshman, I was catching Michael Roth and Matt Price and those guys," Greiner said. "They tried to help me along the way. Now the role is reversed and I'm the catcher catching those (freshmen).

"When they get out there in front of none- or ten-thousand people, I'll need to go out there and calm them down because their juices are going to be flowing a little bit. I'm going to try to calm them down. They're all very talented, if they can slow the game down I think they'll all have great careers here."

For Chad Holbrook, watching Greiner's career has been a joy.

"I said in the fall that I wouldn't trade Grayson Greiner for anybody," Holbrook said. "He's a terrific player. He knows this program inside and out, he handles this pitching staff. Our pitching staff is extremely confident throwing the ball to him; they love throwing to Grayson.

He's a hard worker. He tries to catch every bullpen on practice days, which we try to encourage him not to. He does everything we ask him to do in the weight room, and he has the ultimate respect of our players. He's one of our captains. He's as close to irreplaceable as any player we've got.

"That position is an awfully important position, and he's awfully talented. He's the heart and soul of our team in many ways. We need to keep Grayson Greiner healthy, and we're going to try our best to do that."

Greiner said more than any pressure to stay healthy, he feels the pressure to maintain the level of success at South Carolina he inherited two years ago.

"I think anytime you play for South Carolina, your expectations are very high," Greiner said. "We've made it one game shy of Omaha last year and we felt like we let down tens of thousands of people, and that was a hard burden to put on our shoulders.

"We want to put on a show for these fans and give them what they want. The expectations are high, but I think we're up for the challenge."



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