Patrick Harrington has suddenly become the feel good story of the 2014 season for South Carolina.
Harrington collected two more hits, scored a run and made an outstanding catch in front of the visiting team bullpen in left-center field, sparking USC's 3-1 series-clinching victory over Missouri Saturday afternoon.
Saying Harrington is penning (or texting, since this is the 21st century) an incredible tale in the late stages of his redshirt junior season would be the understatement of the year. Harrington is batting just .180 (7-for-39) through 50 games but he has nine walks/hit by pitch compared to four strikeouts and demonstrated patience at the plate.
In fact, Harrington has as many runs scored (4) as strikeouts, so he has largely put the ball into play and waited out the pitcher while fielding his position cleanly. In 10 outfield starts (seven in left field), Harrington has yet to commit an error with 21 putouts.
Not bad for a guy recruited out of Virginia Beach, Va., as a catcher.
"When he says he brings it every day, that's an understatement," Holbrook said after Saturday's victory. "If we had a team full of 35 Patrick Harringtons, we'd be tough to beat. You don't have to be overly talented. It's just what he has inside of him.
"It's a great story to see him get a couple of hits and hit behind the runner to get him to third. And he made a great play in the outfield on ball that was scorched. I thought it was a double off the bat. He made the catch. One of the best stories of our season has been the emergence of Patrick."
Holbrook acknowledged the USC coaching staff debated at one point during the preseason whether to keep Harrington on the 35-man roster. They did, and now that decision is paying dividends.
Patrick just wanted to contribute to our team. He could have easily left last year," Holbrook said. "I told him he wasn't going to play. He said, 'No, I committed to come here and I'm going to see this thing through.' It's a beautiful deal. I didn't think he would be contributing, but I'm glad he is. The kid is all about what's right with college athletics. He's as important to our team as anybody else."
Even though he came into the season with just four at-bats, Harrington was confident he would find his niche on the roster in2 014.
"He kept telling me in the fall that I'm going to be your starting outfielder," Holbrook said. "I would say, 'Go get 'em. Then I'd close the door in my office and smirk and say, 'There ain't no way.' But he believed. He kept working every day. I'm going to have a tough time when we get healthy putting him on the bench. He brings something to our lineup. He brings fight, energy, enthusiasm, want-to, grit, toughness, all those things.
"He's impressed me that much. He has given us a boost, no doubt about it."
-- Freshman Wil Crowe has struggled in his last few starts, but Holbrook said he has no intentions of pulling him from the weekend rotation. Crowe (6-3, 3.15 ERA in 68.2 IP, 64 hits, 28 runs, 42 strikeouts) is scheduled for his 13th start of the season on Sunday. "We have to give the ball to Wil", Holbrook said. "His stuff was great against Alabama, but he made a mistake last week at Georgia with the bases loaded (allowed grand slam). If that ball falls two feet short, we might be talking about how he won us a big game. He's done some good things for us and I have the utmost confidence he is going to give us a good outing on Sunday."
-- Cody Mincey and Joel Seddon combined for 2.2 hitless innings of relief on Saturday, slamming the door on Missouri's comeback hopes. The duo faced the minimum eight batters while throwing 26 pitches, fanning two. "You feel good about your chance to win the game with our bullpen when you're up two runs late in the game," Holbrook said. "Our bullpen did its job once again.'
-- Jack Wynkoop (7-3) matched Jordan Montgomery for most wins on the pitching staff.
-- Holbrook said USC didn't bunt the ball 'correctly' in several situation in Saturday's game. "We weren't very good situational offensively today," Holbrook said. "We try to get to four runs every game. If we get to four we have a chance to win. We didn't quite get to four today, but our pitchers are so good it's didn't matter."
SEC SCORES (Sat, May 10):
USC 3, Missouri 1 (SC leads 2-0)
Vanderbilt 16, Florida 2 (Vandy wins 2-1)
LSU 2, Alabama 0 (Game 1)
Alabama 5, LSU 1 (Game 2)(Tied 1-1)
Georgia 2, Ole Miss 0 (Tied 1-1)
Auburn 8, Kentucky 1 (Tied 1-1)
Arkansas 7, Texas A&M 3 (Arky leads 2-0)
Miss. State 1, Tennessee 0 (Tied 1-1)
SEC EAST STANDINGS: Florida 19-8, Vanderbilt 16-11, USC 15-11, Tennessee 11-15, Kentucky 11-15, Georgia 10-15-1, Missouri 6-20.