South Carolina held its second scrimmage of the spring Sunday, and Gamecock Central was there.
After a three-run lead turned into a two-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth, the away side rallied in the top of the ninth behind a two-run home run from Kyle Martin to end the scrimmage with a 5-5 tie.
Martin was by far the game's MVP, going 2-for-4 with 4 RBIs and two runs scored to accompany two elite defensive plays in the field to save runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
"He played very well," Holbrook said of Martin. "He made some great defensive plays today. He's really picking up where he left off in the fall.
"He's athletic, very confident in the batter's box, pitching well, committed. He's done everything we've asked him to do."
Scoreless through three innings behind successful starts from freshman Josh Reagan and sophomore Curt Britt (a late replacement for scheduled started Jack Wynkoop, who didn't pitch until the ninth inning as punishment for violating team rules), the visiting side greeted releiver John Parke rudely. After a groundout from Tanner English, who isn't running at full speed due to tendonitis in the knee, according to Holbrook, Matt Williams worked the count full, fouled a pitch off then fought off an inside fastball that dribbled to the right of the mound and allowed Williams to reach for an infield single.
A sharp double down the right field line from Elliott Caldwell put runners at corners for Martin, who laced a single up the middle to score both and moved to second on the throw home. He scored a batter later when Connor Bright ripped an RBI single into right field, one of two hits on the day for Bright, and the 3-0 score stood until the bottom of the eighth.
After working a 1-2-3 inning in he seventh, reliever Preston Johnson came out to work the eighth and Zack Madden smacked a 2-1 offering into left-center field for a leadoff double. He scored two batters later on an RBI double from Patrick Harrington, one of two doubles on the day for Harrington. Jordan Gore, who finished the day 0-for-5, recorded the second out of the inning on a grounder to second, but Max Schrock got his first and only hit of the afternoon on an RBI single to left-center field, scoring Harrington from third.
Joey Pankake, also hitless to that point, then lined a double into the gap in left center that moved Schrock to third. An error on Williams, who had moved from third to second base in a defensive switch earlier in the game scored Schrock, then back-to-back RBI singles from Brison Celek and Gene Cone completed the innings scoring and gave the home side a 5-3 lead going into the top of the ninth.
"There were some positive things that went on, there were some negative things that went on," Holbrook said. "I'm more concerned with how much work we have to do on a number of areas.
We're not really any closer to making any decisions (at shortstop), I don't think that's fair with two scrimmages when we haven't had live work in three months, but you could see our hitters kind of get their legs under them a bit, which typically usually happens for them five or six at-bats in. We did swing the bats a little better today."
"Some of our pitchers threw well, some of our pitchers didn't. All in all is was OK. Nothing
great. Lots of work to do. It was about a C-plus, C-minus for me."
WYNKOOP IN HOT WATER: Scheduled to start, Jack Wynkoop almost didn't throw Sunday at all as punishment for what Holbrook called a violation of team rules. Holbrook said the incident(s) also involved "three to four" other players.
"I almost didn't throw Jack," Holbrook said. "We decided to throw him last.
"Some of the guys didn't handle the responsibilities off the field we asked them to handle this weekend. We try to hold our players accountable and do the right things off the field, and some of them didn't handle it the right way. Hopefully we'll learn from it and get better and become a little bit more committed to trying to do what we're trying to get done here."
Asked later if right now Wynkoop was in the starting rotation, Holbrook said as of Sunday, no, but that was only because his violation was fresh.
"From an ability standpoint, from a talent standpoint, yeah," Holbrook said. "He's ticked me off. So who knows, he might throw Tuesday or the second weekend. I'll make that determination at a later date.
"There's some accountability to being a baseball player here at South Carolina. They're young kids, they're good kids, I love them to death, but it's the first weekend of baseball season, the first weekend of practices. I shouldn't have to talk about this. When some veteran leaders of your team don't do what you ask them to do, it's disappointing. But they'll be OK."
PRAISE FOR MONTGOMERY: Following-up his comments about Wynkoop, Holbrook had more praise for junior Jordan Montgomery.
"If they follow Jordan Montgomery and his work ethic, I think we'll be fine," Holbrook said. "He's a leader of our team and looked like a big-leaguer last night pitching.
"I thought he looked like a first-team All American yesterday
He was very, very impressive and we follow his lead. We've got some good kids in there, and we've got some kids that are very, very talented. But just because we're South Carolina we can't throw the bats and balls out there and expect everybody to lay down for us.
"Sometimes that attitude permeated a little bit this weekend, I thought, and we'll try to correct that this week."
ENGLISH SLOWED: Tanner English may be the fastest player in college baseball; he's certainly the fastest Gamecock. On Sunday, however, he hit into two double-plays and was generally slow getting up the line. Holbrook said that was on purpose.
"Tanner's banged up," Holbrook said. "I wouldn't let him run. That was on me. He's got a little bit of a sore knee. It's essentially tendonitis in his knee, and we're going to take it easy on him. We don't want him to run full speed.
THIRD STARTER STILL OPEN: The three players most mentioned for assuming the third starter position behind Montgomery and Wynkoop are freshmen Wil Crowe and Josh Reagan and junior Joel Seddon. All three had solid outings this weekend.
"They (all) made a case to throw Saturday, not just Sunday," Holbrook said. "It was impressive. The thing I take away from the weekend the most is the way our young guys threw the ball.
"Crowe was very impressive. (Matthew) Vogel was very impressive. Reagan was very impressive today. Wynkoop threw well at the end.
"We have a number of capable arms and talented kids, we just have to put them in the right spots."
RUST REMAINS: Defensively, Holbrook said his team was not close to where he expects them to be by the time the season starts. Though there was just one error Sunday on a hard-hit ball to Williams at second, Holbrook saw some mistakes that don't show up on stat sheets.
"We're still not in the right places in a lot of areas, from cuts and relays and throwing the ball to the right base," Holbrook said.
PANKAKE SHOWS ARM STRENGTH: Held back all fall from throwing hard, Joey Pankake had two sensational throws from third, one running to his right and across his body to get the runner at first and another dart to Max Schrock at second an inning later to spark a rally-killing double play.
"Joey should be one of the leaders of our team," Holbrook said. "He has a talent and an ability to be a first-team All-SEC-type guy. If he does the right thing and handles himself correctly and does everything we ask him to do, there's no doubt he can have a great year, a special year.
CF Tanner English,3B Matt Williams, LF Eliott Caldwell, 1B Kyle Martin, RF Connor Bright, C Grayson Greiner, DH Taylor Widener, SS DC Arendas, 2B Marcus Mooney, EH Jae Roberts
SS Jordan Gore, 2B Max Schrock, 3B Joey Pankake, 1B Weber Pike, DH Brison Celek, CF Gene Cone, RF Brock Maxwell, LF Zack Madden, C Logan Koch, EH Patrick Harrington.
Away: Kyle Martin 2-4, 4 RBIs, HR, 2 RS; Matt Williams 2-4, RS; Elliott Caldwell 2-3, 2B, BB, RS; Connor Bright 2-4, RBI.
Home: Patrick Harrington 2-4, 2 2B, RBI, RS; Gene Cone 2-4, RBI.
Curt Britt: 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 K, BB
Tyler Haswell: 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, BB
Trey McNickle's line: 2IP, 0 R1 H 2 BB, K
Preston Johnson: 2 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 H
Jack Wynkoop: 1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, K (Note: Wynkoop faced 8 batters in the 9th)
Josh Reagan: 3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 K
John Parke: 2 IP, 3 R, 4 H, 2 K
Jackson Smith: 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, K
Josh Knab: 2 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 H, K