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August 16, 2006

Decision Day inches closer for top signees

This is the time of the year when South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner starts getting anxious.

Sure, the start of the 2007 regular season is still 5-1/2 months away, but right now he's not thinking about that.

Rather, his mind is on four recruits who previously signed with USC and who were selected in June's Major League Draft.

With the start of classes just eight days away, it appears South Carolina is about to add several highly talented players to its baseball roster.

Righthanded pitchers Sam Dyson (Tampa, Fla.), Nick Fuller (Marietta, Ga.) and Jay Brown (Young Harris JC) were all selected within the top 19 rounds of the June Draft, while infielder Lonnie Chisenhall (Morehead City, N.C.) was selected in the 11th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Dyson has been negotiating with the Washington Nationals, who drafted the hard-throwing right hander from Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla. in the 19th round.

But the two sides are far part in their talks. Dyson told the Nationals he wanted a "seven digit" signing bonus, while the most the Nationals have offered is $475,000. So, unless the National more than double their offer over the next eight days, Dyson will become a Gamecock.

"I talked to the Nationals a couple of days and told them I was going to school," Dyson said. "I will arriving (at USC) this Saturday. I called Coach (Jim) Toman today and told him I would be up there. I'm definitely looking forward to playing for South Carolina."

Brown was 3-2 with a 1.47 ERA this summer during the regular season of the Cape Cod League. He allowed just 20 hits in 30.2 innings with four saves.

He began the process of moving into his apartment in Columbia earlier this week, and intends to return to USC over the weekend in time for the start of orientation on Monday.

Brown was selected in the 18th round by Tampa Bay.

"They talked to me throughout the summer and kind of got an idea on everything," Brown said. "They haven't called me back since I got done with the Cape Code League a few days ago. Right now, I'm still planning on coming to South Carolina. I've been told they have some interest, so we'll see what happens."

Chisenhall recently led Morehead City Post 46 to the North Carolina American Legion championship and was named the state tournament's Most Valuable Player. Post 46 finished third in the Regional championship in Deland. Fla. behind the host team and regional champion Post 15 of Sumter, S.C.

Chisenhall told Gamecock Central two weeks ago he was firm in his decision to attend USC and had ended negotiations with the Pirates.

Chisenhall's mother confirmed Tuesday that her son's decision to attend USC was still final and that he had no intentions of signing a pro contract.

If there is one player who could still elect to sign a pro contract before the start of classes on Aug. 24 is hard-throwing righthanded pitcher Nick Fuller from Kell High School in Marietta, Ga. He was selected in the third round by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Fuller was regarded by most experts as the top high school pitcher in the Peach State last season. Baseball America ranked his breaking ball as among the best in the nation.

Tanner, though, is optimistic Fuller will become a Gamecock. Fuller has registered for classes at USC.

He is the only Devil Rays draftee among the top 11 picks who has not signed a contract. Among those signing with Tampa Bay is RHP Alex Cobb of Vero Beach, Fla., a Clemson commitment.

"We're extremely confident that he will be here," Tanner said. "As of today he's making plans to move into the dorms this weekend. Things could still change but certainly we're optimistic he's going to be with us."

The addition of Fuller, Dyson and Brown would provide a major infusion of pitching talent to the Gamecocks, who struggled at times on the mound this past season.




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