Another installment of USC baseball hits the field this week with the 5th ranked Gamecocks opening their season against UNC Greensboro. Here’s a few things you need to know and can expect as you embark on your college baseball journey with the Yardcocks.
Chad Holbrook will take more grief than any coach in college baseball
There are only a few things you can count on in this world. Death, taxes and Chad Holbrook getting hammered by his own fan base from pretty much anything ranging from when he bunts to someone’s soda from the Founders Park concession stand being flat. The season hasn’t started and he’s already dealing with friendly fire.
Nope. Cleanup hitters don’t bunt! https://t.co/57XvRHZgxF
— Chad Holbrook (@cholbrook2) February 16, 2017
Even though USC is coming off an SEC East title and a trip to a Super Regional last season, Holbrook is still catching it. The fact is he will probably always catch flack from fans that are upset with him mostly because his name isn’t Ray Tanner.
A friendly reminder to you Gamecock fans: Take a chill pill. It is a long season. Enjoy the ride. There will be bumps along the way, but chances are it will be okay. If you need a refresher from last season you can check out this.
Pitching rotation could be really, really good
The Gamecocks weekend rotation looks pretty darn salty. Last year’s ace Clarke Schmidt is back to hold down the Friday slot, Wil Crowe is returning after missing last season recovering from Tommy John surgery and Adam Hill will handle the Sunday starter role looking to build off a solid freshman campaign. Holbrook stopped short of calling it his best rotation at USC, but there is no doubt that that trio has a chance to be special. Not many teams in college baseball can roll out a group like that.
There still are a few questions. Can Schmidt stay sharp all season? He wore down late in the year in 2016 and admitted he got worn down after he topped the 100 inning mark. Holbrook and pitching coach Jerry Meyers will be regulating this year’s workload closely to make sure there isn’t a repeat in 2017.
Another question will be what Crowe looks like in his return to college baseball. He’s looked solid in summer and fall ball, but the real test is about to come. Holbrook said Crowe is throwing harder than he was before his arm injury and that all of his stuff has looked good in the fall and preseason.
CLARKE SCHMIDT ON STARTING OPENING DAY FOR USC:
Bullpen is nasty, too
Tyler Johnson is one of the best closers in college baseball. He has electric stuff and can go extended innings needed. Josh Reagan is a capable closer as well and Reed Scott is another experienced arm. Holbrook is also high on newcomers Cody Morris and Sawyer Bridges.
New offensive identity
Holbrook said outfielders Dom Thompson-Williams and Gene Cone gave the Gamecocks their offensive identity last season and both of those players have moved on the the pro level. That means it will be on Alex Destino and company to make a new mark on the lineup. Destno hit .321 last season and hit 10 home runs so he he more than capable. Jonah Bride, TJ Hopkins and John Jones are other returning starters that will be counted on to play a big role. Jones got off to a monster start last season, but scuffled down the stretch.
What will Brandon McIlwain’s role be?
MclIwain is committed full time to baseball this spring so it will be interesting to see if he can carve out a significant role on this year’s team. It looks like he will start the season on the bench, but he could be a factor if he finds the form that had MLB scouts trying to convince him to turn pro out of high school.
HOLBROOK ON THE EXCITEMENT OF OPENING DAY: