Chad Holbrook knew going into the SEC Tournament Tuesday his only hope of getting the attention of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee as an 11th seed was to win games. After claiming just two series victories during the SEC season, Friday’s 3-1 win over #3 Kentucky gives the Gamecocks three tournament wins, the equivalent of a weekend series. Don’t look now but the Gamecocks are sending a loud message to the committee for inclusion as an at-large team. That is, if they don’t win the whole tournament.
This most improbable Hoover run mirrors that of the men’s basketball team in March. Every opponent for Frank Martin’s team was expected to win, and for two weekends his guys found a way to win. That has been the case for Holbrook’s club. With the lone exception of Wednesday’s loss to Kentucky, his players have found a way to win and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Friday’s hero was an unlikely one. Outfielder TJ Hopkins has been hurt all season and tries to play when he can. He played so poorly Thursday that he sent Holbrook a text message overnight basically apologizing and promising to do better Friday. But Holbrook did not start Hopkins against Kentucky. That made him available to pinch hit in the bottom of the eighth trailing 1-0 and with two runners on.
Hopkins got a pitch he could handle on 2-0 and he drove it over the left field wall for a three run homer and a 3-1 lead. It was the Gamecocks’ second and final hit of the game. From there Reed Scott and Tyler Johnson finished up following the good work of Adam Hill and Josh Reagan in holding this explosive Kentucky team to one unearned one and six hits.
The Gamecocks will play LSU Saturday at 1:00 in the first semi-final game as they continue their deepest run in the SEC Tournament in ten years. The winner moves on to the championship game Sunday afternoon
Chad Holbrook press conference
Holbrook talks more about text message from Hopkins and the win
Adam Hill, TJ Hopkins and Tyler Johnson press conference