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March 5, 2014

Diamond Extra: Stetson Game 2

There's something about Weber Pike's eyes Chad Holbrook can't resist.

With the redshirt freshman due up with the winning run 90 feet from home plate and two out in the bottom of the seventh, Holbrook had a number of pinch-hitting options he could have turned to with more experience in a tight situation and the game on the line.

One look into Pike's eyes, however, was all it took.

"I called time, not necessarily to talk to Weber but to give me a little bit more time to think about it," Holbrook said. "I got up there, I looked in Weber's eyes and that sucker, I have the utmost confidence in him swinging the bat. I do.

"I think he's going to put the ball in play hard somewhere all the time. I just felt good about it. I just like Weber Pike's makeup in that situation. He'll battle and compete and if he does make an out it's not because he didn't give you everything he's got. He gives you everything he's got. You watch him take BP, he gives you everything he's got, every swing, every practice, and I felt good about that.

"I felt good about giving him that opportunity."

Despite getting down 0-2, Pike fought the count and sent a single into left over the shortstop's head for the game-winning hit and his first two RBI as a Gamecock in USC's 4-2 win over Stetson on Wednesday night at Carolina Stadium.

"I felt good about Weber Pike there," Holbrook continued. "That sucker has a knack for putting the barrel of the bat on the ball. I just felt like he was going to get a hit."

SEDDON STREAK CONTINUES: Closer Joel Seddon earned his fourth save of the year with a 1-2-3 ninth inning that included two strikeouts. More impressive than his save total is the fact that not only hasn't Seddon allowed a run this year, he is yet to allow a hit in 8.2 innings of work.

SCHROCK OUT: While running out a fielder's choice grounder in the bottom of the seventh on a close play, Schrock rolled his left ankle and was slow getting up. He did not return to the game, and afterward Holbrook said Schrock would get an X-ray Thursday to look at it and would in all likelihood be out for the weekend series with Brown beginning Friday night at 7.

"He rolled his ankle on the bag," Holbrook said. "I'll keep my fingers crossed we'll get him back next week. Hopefully, we'll get good news on the X-ray tomorrow."

Holbrook said he's blessed with plenty of options to fill Schrock's spot at second base and may use the opportunity to experiment a bit.

"DC (Arendas) will be in (the mix), obviously," Holbrook said. "But I might tinker with playing Joey Pankake over at second.

"DC has gotten comfortable at third. I don't know, and Joey, his arm has been a little bit sore. The weather is so cold, I kind of want to protect Joey. We'll see. One of the things I like about our infield is we have a few shortstops on our roster. I can move Connor Bright in there, too, and he can play second base fine."

MOONEY-RISE KINGDOM: After dropping in the batting order for the Clemson series as Elliott Caldwell led off, Marcus Mooney has returned to the top of the order against Stetson and the results, especially Wednesday, are promising.

Leading off against the Hatters, Mooney went 2-for-3 with two walks. One of his two hits was a perfectly executed bunt single with two out and two on that loaded the bases for the Gamecocks in the second.

"Marcus has great baseball aptitude, and I talked to him about taking some pitches," Holbrook said. "I gave him some unconventional 'take' counts, and I just want him to learn how to have a leadoff approach.

"He's so aggressive. He's a little guy that likes to swing; he thinks he's Babe Ruth sometimes. We're working on his bunt game, and he had a bunt hit. Take pitches, slap the ball around, be a pest, be a pain in the rear end and have a high on-base percentage.

"He has the aptitude to do it. He hasn't been asked to do it before in his baseball career. But he has the aptitude to do it, and right now he's our best bet to do it (lead off) as we go forward."

GREINER RESTS: Logan Koch started at catcher in place of Grayson Greiner for the first time this season, and like Mooney, the results Wednesday were promising. Besides Mooney and Tanner English, Koch was the only other starter with two hits on the night.

"I was also pleased that Logan showed today that he can fill in for Grayson," Holbrook said. "He got two hits, caught the ball well and did what we asked him to do. That makes me feel better going forward about giving Grayson some time off in between. We have to be very, very careful protecting him."

RISP-REWARD: Despite combining for 18 hits, neither team did much to drive in the batters who reached base. The Gamecocks left nine batters on, while Stetson stranded 11. USC did take best advantage of its opportunities, however, hitting .364 (4-11) with runners in scoring position to Stetson's .167 (2-12)

For the game, the Hatters hit just .229 to USC's .303.

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