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Look back, look ahead: Lineup changes coming after Palmetto series loss?

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Chad Holbrook has led USC to a 10-2 record so far in 2016
Chris Gillespie, Gamecock Central

Watching South Carolina’s offense struggle in the final two games against Clemson has Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook contemplating lineup changes.

In consecutive losses to the Tigers Saturday and Sunday, USC hitters compiled a meager .147 (9-61) batting average with two extra base hits. Saturday, they were held to two hits in a shutout loss at Fluor Field. Sunday wasn’t much better with seven hits and one run.

Will Holbrook shake up the lineup when USC faces Wofford Tuesday night at Founders Park? The contest is the fifth of 10 straight games against Palmetto State schools.

“We have a better offensive team than what we showed over the last 18 innings,” Holbrook said Sunday. “Clemson’s pitchers manhandled us. It was disappointing from my end. We have to regroup and get back to work. I have some things I have to think about with regards to how we go about some things from a lineup perspective.”

USC’s offense floundered against Clemson in two ways: 1) Only two of the 18 leadoff batters in the final two games reached base; 2) An excessive number of two-out hits. Four of USC’s seven hits Sunday came with two outs. Saturday, they had only one hit in the first eight innings.

Sunday, four of USC’s nine leadoff batters struck out. It happened four times Saturday as well.

“You have to get leadoff guys on base,” Holbrook said. “We have to get guys fighting a little harder with nobody out in the inning and try to set the table for our other guys. Trying to do it all with two outs is asking a little too much. We have to get better at that. We have to get better with nobody out and try to find a way to get to first base and create some opportunities with less than two outs.

“We have to get a little tougher and compete a little harder in the batter’s box.”

With the 30-game SEC campaign still to come, Holbrook isn’t ready to give upon his team even when he is considering lineup changes.

“This is a weekend series on the first weekend in March,” Holbrook said. “While it’s a bitter pill to swallow, I’m not ready to judge my guys’ fight and character and tenacity based on the last two games. They have been great for me since August. We got out of character a little bit the last 18 innings. We have to get back to work.”

Sophomore RHP Clarke Schmidt was honored as SEC Pitcher of the Week after he struck out a career-high nine Clemson batters in eight scoreless innings in Friday's 8-1 win over Clemson.

Schmidt's outing was the longest stint of his career. He is 3-0 on the year with a 0.43 ERA after three starts. Schmidt has struck out 23 batters and walked only five. He has allowed one run on nine hits in 21.0 innings of work. Opponents are batting .143 against him.

NOTES:

-- The Gamecocks announced Monday freshman Adam Hill (2-0) will start Tuesday night’s home game against Wofford. Hill has been USC’s top midweek pitcher this season, compiling a 2-0 record and 0.00 ERA with 19 strikeouts and just two walks in 11.0 innings pitched. He has allowed five hits, one every two innings. Last week in Charleston he tossed five scoreless innings at The Citadel.

-- Wofford has named freshman lefthander Austin Higginbotham (0-1, 1.69 ERA, 5.1 IP, 1 BB, 4 K) as the Terrier’s starting pitcher for Tuesday’s contest at Founders Park. Wofford is 10-3 overall after three weeks of action. The Terriers won three of four games last weekend against Ohio, including a 6-5 win in 11 innings to take the series on Sunday. Wofford opened the season with a 5-4 victory over Kentucky and also defeated Stony Brook (9-8) and George Mason (11-6) in an opening weekend tournament in Spartanburg. Bradley McClain and Alec Paradowski lead Wofford at the plate with a .348 average (16-for-46).

-- The Gamecocks are ranked No. 17 in the latest D1Baseball poll and No. 21 in Collegiate baseball. They are not ranked by Baseball America.

-- Catcher John Jones continues to swing a hot bat for the Gamecocks. He was 2-for-4 on Sunday to keep his batting average at .500 (21-42) with a team-high 19 RBI and .786 slugging percentage.

-- Alex Destino had seven hits in the Clemson series, a career high five in last Friday’s win over the Tigers, and currently has a batting average of .340 (18-53) with two homers and 16 RBI.

-- LHP Josh Reagan has not allowed a run in five relief appearances this season totaling 9.1 innings. He has fanned 11 opposing batters with two walks. He hurled 4.2 innings of scoreless relief in Sunday’s rubber game loss at Clemson.

-- Junior OF Dom Thompson-Williams, dropped from leadoff to fifth in the batting order on Sunday, has reached base in all 12 games this season. He had two hits, including USC’s lone extra-base hit, a double, in Sunday’s loss at Clemson.

-- USC is third in the SEC in team ERA (1.95) and opponents are batting just .180 (67-373) against them. Clemson mustered only 18 hits in the Palmetto series.

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:

March 1 at The Citadel, W 6-3

March 4 vs. Clemson, W 8-1

March 5 vs. Clemson (at Greenville), L 5-0

March 6 at Clemson, L 4-1

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE:

Tuesday vs. Wofford, 7 p.m.

Wednesday vs. Furman, 7 p.m.

Friday vs. Charleston Southern, 7 p.m.

Saturday vs. Charleston Southern, 4 p.m.

Sunday vs. Charleston Southern, 1:30 p.m.


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