Founders Park was eerily silent last June as USC missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. But after winning the SEC East and earning a home regional beginning Friday, the Gamecocks are excited to be back among the national elite and playing for a spot in Omaha.
USC was not one of the top eight seeds but that seemed of little concern to coach Chad Holbrook and the players who talked with the media Monday. They refused to look ahead to a possible trip to Clemson for the Super Regional knowing that coming off a poor 0-2 performance at the SEC Tournament last week, they can take no team for granted.
The Gamecocks will open up with Rhode Island Friday night. The Rams won the Atlantic 10 tournament in ten games but carry an RPI of 112. They are 0-5 against top 50 RPI teams this season, and USC’s is 8th. But the Rams have a standout pitcher the Gamecocks will see Friday night in Tyler Wilson who is 6-3 with a 2.16 ERA. Teams ar batting only .184 against him this season.
Duke and UNC Wilmington form the other side of the bracket and will play the first game on Friday.
Holbrook is putting his team through vigourous workouts in preparation for the regional considering the poor performance in Hoover. And he said he’s considering inserting freshman TJ Hopkins somewhere in the lineup and batting him high up in the order because of his offensive capabilities.
The Gamecocks will stick with their regular weekend rotation, according to Holbrook starting Clark Schmidt in game one followed by Braden Webb and Adam Hill.