Friday, February 7, 2014

Gamecock Baseball is back!

Connor Bright #4

As the Cockabooster awakens from a winter hibernation, one of my favorite topics will get the new year started:  The Yard Cocks!  I know, I know!  I have missed several great chances recently to launch into old Dabo and the upstate crazies.  That insanely short-sighted contract; the pretending that losing to Carolina is now okay, etc, etc.  Don’t worry I’ll have fun with those soon. 

But for now let’s focus on the Diamond.  Coach Chad Holbrook’s boys enter the new season looking strong and talented as usual.  USC will start out at #7 in Baseball America’s rankings and #14 in the USA Today Coaches poll.  Returning are some familiar names including Joey Pankake, Tanner English and Grayson Greiner.  We will need big years from all of them to maintain our high-level of expectations.   

The most notable “holes” to fill in my opinion are the infield and bullpen.  There is NO doubt that replacing LB Dantzler will be difficult.  LB led us in on-base percentage and slugging percentage and will be missed.  With Pankake moving over to third and Max Schrok returning at second, that means two new faces in the infield.  Most likely you’ll see Kyle Martin at first.  Short is still a question mark with Marcus Mooney and D. C. Arendas battling for the nod.  And to close out the infield, how great is it to have the “monster” Greiner behind the plate again? 

More good news is that Gumby is back!  One of my favorite Gamecocks, Jordan Montgomery, returns as the Ace Friday night starter.  The #2 spot in the rotation comfortably belongs to Jake Wynkoop.  So we’re good and seasoned for Fridays and Saturdays.  The third spot is usually somewhat of a question mark and that’s okay. 

More concerning is wondering who our closer will be?  Perhaps outside of how Kyle Martin fills in for LB, this could end up being the big factor in how far we can go.  Freshman Will Crowe could be given the shot, which would likely move either Josh Reagan or Joel Seddon into the Sunday starting spot. 

Finally, with English in Center and Connor Bright in Right, 2/3 of the Outfield is in fine shape.  I’m looking forward to seeing JUCO transfer Elliot Caldwell in left.  If he is as good as we hope, we will have a tremendous group back there.  

Finally there is the schedule.  If you think football is tough in the SEC, take a look at baseball!  Baseball America has eight SEC teams in the top 25 and four in the top 10!  The Gamecocks play 10 SEC weekends, and you can add in 3 games against #13 Clemson as always.  As you can see, it will be the normal “grind” to get to the top. 

But we’ll be ready.  We play at the best stadium in the nation after all.  “The Ray” is intimidating and as good of a home atmosphere that exists in the sport.  So get the peanuts, popcorn and coca-cola ready!  It’s time for Gamecock Baseball!  

Joel Seddon

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