Diamond Extra: Youth movement
Despite being in his 16th year, Ray Tanner continues to make history at South Carolina.
The longtime skipper started six freshmen among his starting lineup for the first time since taking over before the 1997 season for Wednesday's 2-1 win over Davidson. TJ Costen led off and played left field, Grayson Greiner batted third and caught, Joey Pankake was at shortstop, Kyle Martin was at first base, Tanner English was in right field and Joel Seddon pitched. Another freshman, Evan Beal, pitched two innings in relief.
They all contributed. Seddon had a solid start, Beal threw two scoreless innings and Martin drove in the game-winning run.
Tanner admitted that he had some reservations when he looked at the lineup card before handing it to the plate umpire, but it was removed by necessity and hope. Necessity due to the injury to Christian Walker (someone had to play first and hit third), and hope that after 44 games, freshmen weren't freshmen anymore.
"A lot of them have played," Tanner said. "I don't look at them too much as freshmen. You hate to put too many of those guys out there."
J-SEDD: Seddon threw four innings and gave up three hits, two walks and a run, while striking out five. He tossed 65 pitches.
The short stint was just to get Seddon some work and not stretch him out too far. After only throwing 7 1-3 innings this season coming into the game, Seddon had gotten lost in the shuffle of starting pitchers and the Tyler Webb/Matt Price bullpen crew. Definitely talented enough to pitch, Seddon had struggled to find the plate early in the season and found himself behind other guys.
Still, as the postseason approaches, Tanner realized he has to know exactly what he has and doesn't have once the postseason hits. In tournament settings where there are often games day after day, pitchers are at a premium - with USC nursing some injured arms, it's time to find out who can do what and if they'll be able to do it in June.
Seddon did well. Although he threw mostly breaking balls instead of his plus fastball, he got batters out and pitched himself out of some jams.
"My stuff was good early on," the freshman said. "I might have got a little tired after the second."
As for the postseason, Seddon plans to keep using the same approach. He's been patient as the season has progressed, and viewed Wednesday as a chance to get the spotlight back on him.
"I don't think I hurt myself, really," Seddon said. "All depends on what the coaches think. I'll be ready if they need me."
BANGED UP: Walker did not play, taking the game off after slightly straining his left hamstring against Alabama last week. Walker took batting practice (and put the last ball he saw into the seats) but did not play.
Tanner said that Walker could have been used for pinch-hitting if needed, but the plan was to rest him if at all possible as a precaution. Martin took Walker's place at first base while Greiner hit in Walker's customary third spot in the order. Walker should be "good to go," although not 100 percent, for the Arkansas series.
Colby Holmes (shoulder) was at the game and in uniform, able to shag balls beyond the fence during batting practice. But he will not travel to Arkansas and his determination for the rest of the year is still 9-10 days away.
Forrest Koumas, who like Seddon had not pitched since March 31 (arm soreness), relieved Seddon after four innings. He threw one frame.
FOR REAL?: Despite Davidson's campus being within 50 miles of the South Carolina border, the Wildcats only had one Palmetto State native on the roster. Left-hander Justin Charles, a sophomore from Greenville and J.L. Mann High School, was the lone representative.
THE COUNTDOWN: Carolina Stadium had an announced attendance of 7,177 on Wednesday, improving the stadium's all-time attendance to 994,327. USC is expected to break the 1 millionth fan plateau during its next home game, on May 9 hosting Furman (stadium capacity is 8,242 and USC is only 5,673 from the mark).
There have been no plans yet announced to honor the 1 millionth fan, as Colonial Life Arena did.
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