USC-PC Diamond Extra: Dantzler fit for Starkville

Had South Carolina faced a conference opponent on Tuesday, LB Dantzler might have played.
But coach Chad Holbrook decided to rest the senior first baseman, who suffered a separated shoulder in a base-running incident a week ago, in order to improve his chances of being available for a key SEC series at Mississippi State starting on Thursday.
"LB was better and he could have played tonight if we were playing a conference game, but I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I had put him in today and he had gotten hurt or been sore tomorrow and jeopardized the weekend," Holbrook said after USC beat pesky Presbyterian 4-3.
Dantzler will enter the series with a .337 batting average, 12 homers, 45 RBI and a slugging percentage of .634, all team-highs. Holbrook suggested that Dantzler will serve as the designated hitter against Mississippi State.
"Holding him out tonight assures us that he will be ready for the weekend," Holbrook said. "I don't know if he'll be able to play first because I won't know that until we get there tomorrow night and practice. But I'm hopeful he will. Kyle Martin made an error tonight, but he has helped us win several games."
HUGE WEEKEND IN STARKVILLE: The Gamecocks need just one victory over Mississippi State to nail down a top-four seed for next week's SEC tournament, enabling them to avoid the single-elimination round on Tuesday. But Holbrook realizes the Bulldogs are formidable in Starkville, compiling a 27-6 mark at Polk-Dement Field. The Bulldogs are averaging 7,346 fans at home, and the crowds this weekend should be in full voice.
Mississippi State (38-15) is No. 10 in the latest RPI index released by the NCAA on Tuesday, while USC is No. 11.
"Their RPI is ahead of ours," Holbrook noted. "Their record is as good or better than ours. And they're playing at home. We're going down there as the underdog, to be quite honest with you. It's not easy to win on the road in this league, and it's really not easy to on the road when you're playing a really good team like Mississippi State. We have a tall task ahead of us."
Will the outcome of the series in Starkville determine whether USC hosts an NCAA Regional? Holbrook insisted it shouldn't because the Gamecocks' "body of work" for the entire season and high RPI has earned them the right to host a regional.
"As I sit here right now, I feel we're a host," Holbrook said. "That's the way I feel. Unfortunately, I don't get to select the host sites. But I feel our body of work deserves to be one of the 16 host sites regardless of what happens this weekend. Mississippi State, regardless of what happens this weekend, should be a host site, too. I think five teams in this league are going to host if you look at RPIs and overall records and the body of works."
WEBB MATCHES APPEARANCE RECORD: Even though he yielded a rare RBI-single in the ninth that brought the go-ahead run to the plate and briefly produced some tension at Carolina Stadium, closer Tyler Webb recorded the final three outs for his 15th save of the season.
"Honestly, we didn't want to use him if we didn't have to, but it was his bullpen day anyway today," Holbrook said. "He was going to throw regardless, though that is a little bit of a difference. Some of his velocity was some of the best he's had all year."
Just as important, the four-batter stint was his 102nd career appearance, tying Matt Price for the school record. Webb will likely set the record this weekend at Mississippi State. Right now, Holbrook said his vote for team MVP would go to Webb, who has allowed only 21 hits and four runs in 33.1 innings, with 50 strikeouts and seven walks.
"Tyler is a really neat kid," Holbrook said. "I remember the day he called me when I was working at North Carolina and told me he was going to commit to South Carolina. That's the best recruit I never got. He's a terrific kid. He battles and works extremely hard. He's done great in all aspects of his career here. He's meant a lot to this program. He's a first-team All-American."
* Patrick Sullivan improved to 4-0 in his career as he was USC's pitcher of record when USC scored twice in the seventh to take a 4-2 lead. He has worked 73.2 innings in 47 appearances over four seasons, with three career starts.
* Dante Rosenberg made his first start at catcher since April 9, snapping a streak of 17 consecutive starts by Grayson Greiner. Rosenberg was 2-for-2 at the plate with a sacrifice, lifting his average to .333 (17-of-51) with one homer and 12 RBI.
* Four of the six meetings between USC and Presbyterian since 2008 have been decided by one run. Last year, USC churned out a 2-1 win.
* Holbrook said that Connor Bright has pinkeye in both eyes, restricting his vision. "I wanted to play Connor, but he looked like somebody took a bat to his head," Holbrook said. "It was a struggle for him in BP to even see the ball. So we gave him the night off."
* USC finished the regular season with a 28-6 home record and will find out if it's hosting a Regional on Memorial Day. Holbrook said he was proud of USC's home record. Five of the six home losses came against Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
* Holbrook said that shortstop Joey Pankake was limited at the plate by a finger injury.
If you have any questions about this feature or wish to discuss it, please visit The Insiders ForumClick * Evan Beal held Presbyterian hitless in two innings with a walk. He retired six of the eight batters he faced and threw 29 pitches. Here to view this Link., Gamecock Central's members-only message board for Gamecock fans.