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Gamecocks managing lofty expectations heading into fall scrimmages

Last season, the Gamecocks were somewhat of an unknown. Coming off a 25-loss season where they didn’t make a postseason, it was difficult to pinpoint what last year’s team could do.

Things are a little different this year.

South Carolina is returning seven position players for the start of fall scrimmages Friday that saw significant time last season along with All-SEC pitcher Clarke Schmidt and former freshman All-American Wil Crowe.

“I think we have the makings to be a pretty darn good team,” Holbrook said. “We’re going to have to do all the other things right to work hard and continue to improve this fall, but we got some guys who I think are pretty good at playing baseball.”

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It’s easy on paper to pencil this team into one of eight College World Series slots, and a lot of national media has. and Baseball America have the Gamecocks advancing to play in Omaha.

With fall scrimmages starting this weekend, they now have to prepare with lofty expectations.

“You can’t manage that in September. You can’t really manage that in February,” pitcher Tyler Johnson said. “You just have to play as a unit and practice like you have a goal of going to Omaha. You let itself play out and when it gets down to it hopefully you play hot at the right time.”

While losing a slew of talent to the MLB Draft—Dom Thompson-Williams, Taylor Widener, Braden Webb, Marcus Mooney and Matt Vogel—the 2016 class is looking to fill those gaps.

They bring in a wealth of young talent, Holbrook said, including utility player Carlos Cortes. He’s coming into Columbia rated the No. 27 overall player in the class and is listed as a infielder and outfielder.

There’s also Riley Hogan, Joey Polak, Jacob Olson, Chase DeMars, Christian Flint, Josh Gregory, all of whom played in Friday’s scrimmage. Holbrook also said he’s high on incoming freshmen Rian Haire, Jonathan Jahn, Sawyer Bridges.

“All of our guys we recruited we feel have the talent to make an impact or we wouldn’t recruited them,” “Obviously Carlos Cortes has gotten a lot of publicity and we certainly love what we see from him…There’s a lot of guys we want to get out there.”

Also see: Friday's Insider Report

Fall practices will continue all weekend with Holbrook still figuring out his lineup for opening day in February. Holbrook said he still has to figure out positions vacated by team leaders like Mooney and DC Arendas.

Holbrook said junior college shortstop has a good chance to be the shortstop, but said he's been impressed with fellow transfer Jacob Olson. He also said Alex Destino will play left field and first base this fall.

“We got a number of questions this fall and it’s important we get started and kind of answer them from a leadership standpoint,” Holbrook said. “With that being said, I do feel like I got a good team, a pretty talented team.”