January 26, 2015

A crucial season looms for Jack Leggett and the Clemson baseball program

Jack Leggett is excited about the upcoming season.

Jack Leggett is excited about the upcoming season.

Jack Leggett is about to start his 22nd season at Clemson. Despite the fact he’s one of the best coaches in college baseball history, Leggett will begin the 2015 season under some pressure.  An up and down 2014 season that ended in a NCAA Regional 0-2 in Nashville led to new guidelines and orders for Leggett from Tigers AD Dan Radokovich.  What kind of impact those changes will have this season remains to be seen, as does what kind of season Leggett has to have to keep the restless villagers from running him out of town, which we have made clear would be a mistake.

Leggett does have five of his nine position starters back, along with a good chunk of his starting pitching so Clemson should be able to compete with anyone on its schedule. Friday afternoon Leggett met with reporters to preview the upcoming season.

 

And we’ve also got some comments from starting pitcher Matthew Crownover and shortstop Tyler Krieger.

Brad Brownell and Rod Hall preview Clemson’s matchup with Wake Forest (VIDEO)

Rod Hall and the Tigers face Wake Forest Saturday.

Rod Hall and the Tigers face Wake Forest Saturday.

Clemson has an excellent chance to pick up another ACC win Saturday when the Tigers welcome in Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are 9-10 overall, just 1-5 in the ACC. Meanwhile, the Tigers are 10-8, 2-4 in the league. Three of those four losses were against top 25 teams (Virginia #2, Louisville #5, North Carolina #21). Not that any game in the ACC is a cakewalk, but Wake Forest at home is a game Clemson needs to and should win. Brad Brownell and guard Rod Hall met with reporters Friday to break down the matchup.

 

Listen as Chad Holbrook previews USC baseball for 2015 (AUDIO)

Taylor Widener will be key to any USC success this season

Taylor Widener will be key to any USC success this season

The expectations are still very high around the USC baseball program as Chad Holbrook begins season three at the helm.  One pre-season poll has the Gamecocks ranked as high as #5, thought Holbrook is not buying that, at least in January.  He lost several talented players from last year’s squad which did not advanced past the regional round of the NCAA Tournament.

However, Holbrook can count on a bevy of infielders to give him some defensive flexibility, and he has two of his three weekend starters back.  Questions at catcher and closer have to be quickly answered in the next 21 days before they open a three game series with the College of Charleston in Columbia.

Senior first baseman Kyle Martin has emerged as the team leader and another senior, Connor Bright, is healthy and expected to have a big season in right field.  Gene Cone is slated to man centerfield and will likely bat leadoff.  Elliott Caldwell could be the leftfielder though that is still to be determined.

Holbrook added that junior second baseman Max Schrock has lost weight and has himself in the best condition of his career.  He calls Schrock one of the best players in college baseball and expects to see that kind of production from him now that he’s healthy.

The shortstop position is up for grabs between Jordan Gore and Marcus Mooney but both will play.  One could slide to the outfield.  DC Arendas and Madison Stokes will also figure into the infield equation as Holbrook moves players in and out at second and third.

The catching battle right now is between Logan Koch and freshman Hunter Taylor.  And if opening day were today, Holbrook said Taylor Widener would be the closer though he’s still contemplating using him in the rotation.

Righthander Wil Crowe and lefthander Jack Wynkoop are penciled in as two of the three weekend starters.

AUDIO: Chad Holbrook [19:33]

 

USC not intimidated by top ranked Kentucky (AUDIO)

Sindarius Thornwell said the team is trying to get back to the level it was playing in December and early January.

Sindarius Thornwell said the team is trying to get back to the level it was playing in December and early January.

Tomorrow afternoon USC will face top ranked and unbeaten Kentucky at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks have dropped three of their first four SEC games, but Sindarius Thornwell said that doesn’t mean they will be star struck when the Wildcats roll into Columbia. USC beat Kentucky in Columbia last year, but as Frank Martin said this week, this Wildcat team is light years better than last year’s. That’s saying something considering the Cats played for the NCAA title a year ago.

Friday afternoon Thornwell and Mindaugas Kacinas met with reporters to talk about the task of taking down the 18-0 Wildcats.

AUDIO: Sindarius Thornwell & Mindaugas Kacinas [5:00]

 

USC’s matchup against top ranked Kentucky is sold out

USC will have a full house Saturday against Kentucky.

USC will have a full house Saturday against Kentucky.

The South Carolina men’s basketball contest against No. 1/1 Kentucky on Saturday is sold out, the Gamecock Athletics Ticket Office announced today.

South Carolina ranks fourth in the SEC thus far in 2014-15 with an average of 10,797, fans per game. The contest against the Wildcats is the 11th home matchup of the season for the Gamecocks. Saturday’s sellout is the first at Colonial Life Arena since also playing Kentucky on Jan. 22, 2011.

Saturday’s game will tip at Noon ET on ESPN, with Mark Jones (pxp), Dick Vitale (analyst) and Kaylee Hartung (sideline) on the call.