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February 15, 2014

Baseball hosts Bucknell

BUCKNELL (0-0) at NO. 7 SOUTH CAROLINA (0-0)
When: Noon and 4 p.m. today, 12:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Carolina Stadium
Tickets:Available at the box office
TV: None
Probable starting pitchers
South Carolina-- Game 1: LHP Jordan Montgomery (Jr., 6-1, 1.48 ERA, 79.0 IP, 18 BB, 60 K). Game 2: LHP Jack Wynkoop (So., 7-3, 3.09 ERA, 64.0 IP, 11 BB, 36 K). Sunday: RHP Wil Crowe (Fr.).
Bucknell-- Game 1: RHP Bryson Hough (Jr., 3-6, 4.28 ERA, 73.2 IP, 24 BB, 39 K). Game 2: LHP Dan Weigel (Sr., 4-5, 3.60 ERA, 70.0 IP, 34 BB, 59 SO). Sunday: RHP Andrew Andreychik (So., 4-3, 3.73 ERA, 50.2 IP, 18 BB, 32 K)

Notes: South Carolina leads the series 1-0. The last win was a 9-5 victory on June 4, 2010 The weekend festivities will kickoff on Saturday with a ceremony dedicating the home bullpen to former Gamecock All-American Michal Roth. Athletics Director Ray Tanner and Cocky along with Billy Moore, a long-time supporter of South Carolina athletics, and his family will unveil a plaque beside the home bullpen officially naming it after Roth. At approximately 11:40 a.m. a pregame presentation will take place and fans will get to see a special message from Roth Before the start of the second game the Athletics Department will dedicate the new playground at Carolina Stadium to Hay Fant Sparks. A graduate of the College of Engineering and Computing, Sparks is a life-long Gamecock fan. Tanner, Sparks and his family will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Next up: USC hosts Presbyterian at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The doors never stood a chance.

South Carolina, regional host, was in a funk in its opening game against Bucknell of the Patriot League going into a rain delay in the sixth inning trailing 5-1. Well, "tailspin" was more like it, because the Gamecocks' misery had begun two weeks before.

"We'd lost two out of three to Florida at home for the SEC regular season championship, we hadn't even broken a sweat at Hoover and came home before anybody got loose and then we're losing to Bucknell 5-1," said coach Chad Holbrook, who at the time was an assistant under then-head coach and current athletics director Ray Tanner. "Things weren't good around here. That was before we'd won a national championship, and tensions were high.

"We were about to get booed out of our own stadium. My role in (the rain delay) was me and Coach Tanner got in a door-slamming contest in the rain delay because we were so mad at each other. I think I slammed it a little bit louder than Coach Tanner slammed his door. It rained, (the players) had a little meetings of the mind in (the locker room) and came up with the 'Spirit Stick' and w won a lot NCAA Tournament games after that. It's kind of weird how it worked."

Today, the same program that started South Carolina's historic, unprecedented run to back-to-back national championships and a national runner-up returns to the place where the run truly began to face a Gamecocks team led by juniors Joey Pankake, Grayson Greiner, Tanner English, Kyle Martin and Jordan Montgomery, none of whom have tasted a championship in Omaha or were around for that memorable 2010 game when it seemed like Mother Nature herself conspired to wake up USC's bats.

"That was a critical moment in time," Holbrook said. "Who knew what was to come?"

It's fitting, then than today, South Carolina begins its quest to return to Omaha, scene of so many Gamecock triumphs, against the team that launched them all. With a team voted by the SEC coaches to win the league, Holbrook knows the time is now for his top-10 team to begin its journey toward the glory that tantalizes every program equally on Opening Day.

"(The SEC coaches) think we have some good players," Holbrook said. "They think our program is in a good spot. I tell our guys it's nice to be recognized like that, but does it have anything to do with how we're going to perform? No. It creates a little bit of an expectation, but we had expectations before that.

"It's neat that our peers think we're pretty good, and that should give us some confidence that the best coaches in the country think the Gamecocks are pretty good, but I can tell you right now they're going to try their best to beat our rear ends.

"We've got to go out on the field and prove it, because any preseason poll's not going to help us win a championship."

WHAT TO WATCH: The left side of the infield. While Martin and Max Schrock are locks at first and second bas, respectively, Holbrook said he still hasn't decided who will start at shortstop or even third. Holbrook feels strongly that both DC Arendas and Marcus Mooney have earned the right to play and said he could go with a number of combinations including Mooney at short, Arendas at third and Pankake in left with Elliott Caldwell DH'ing. Or, he could play Pankake at third, Caldwell in left and DH Arendas. Or he could play Arendas at third, Mooney at short, Caldwell in left and DH Pankake.

The only thing for sure is that Arendas has played well enough that Holbrook can't justify leaving him out of the lineup, and with Pankake's versatility (though he said he prefers the infield), that likely means bad news for the DH-only candidates such as Brison Celek, Taylor Widener and others.

"I doubt we'll play the same nine all three games," Holbrook said. "I think we have a versatile group. Joey can move around a bit and we will move him around a little bit. He'll play third at some point this weekend, I don't know when.

"I still have some decisions to make at designated hitter."



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