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Q&A on Gamecock Baseball with Chad Holbrook

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Chad Holbrook.jpegI caught up with Baseball Associate Head Coach Chad Holbrook last week to talk about the team's performance so far this season, which players have surprised him, the prestige of playing in the SEC, and more.


BL: What are the things you think the team is doing really well right now and what are some things you would still like to see improve?

Holbrook: We've obviously pitched very, very well. Michael Roth has been terrific, Matt Price has been really good, John Taylor has been unbelievable. I think the backbone of our team is our pitching staff. There's no question we can pitch and we think we can play defense with anybody in the country. We got to get better offensively. We need to put together better at-bats and hit for a little bit higher average than we are right now. I don't think we've played as well as we're capable of playing offensively yet and I think that's a good thing.

So what are some of the things you're focusing on in practice right now to move in that direction?

With the new bats we try to keep the ball out of the air as much as we can. We've hit way too many fly balls. In the past you could get away with it with the older bats but now you can't. Those fly balls just aren't getting out of the park. So we have to focus a little more on staying on top of the ball, hitting line drives and ground balls and putting pressure on the defense. If we do those things our batting average will go up and we'll be a bit tougher to defend. At times we've been pretty easy to defend with hitting balls in the air.

We have a lot of special players, but Jackie [Bradley Jr] has really risen to the top on the defensive side of the ball, always seeming to make these highlight reel catches. What are some of the qualities about him as a person and a player that help him be so successful?

He's just very, very gifted. He's not necessarily the best athlete in the world. He's a really good athlete, but he's not some elite runner. He gets great jumps. He has a knack for doing the right thing, great instincts, great baseball savvy. He just knows how to play. As a team we're really good up the middle. Peter Mooney has played really well defensively as of late. Scott Wingo is probably one of the best second basemen in all college baseball. When you're strong up the middle defensively you're going to be pretty good. And with Jackie, Scott, and Peter we think we're a little bit better than most teams we play up the middle defensively.

Has anyone surprised you so far this season?

We've had a lot of surprises. John Taylor has been an incredible surprise. We knew he was good and would be an important part of our staff but he's done it time and time again and been extremely consistent. You could probably make a case he's our MVP through the halfway point of the season and no one would have predicted that. Michael Roth pitching as well as he has pitched, it's kind of a surprise the way he has done it. We knew he was going to be really good, but his pitching numbers are among the best in the country. For a guy that only throws 84 miles per hour you'd think he'd get hit a little more than he does, but he hasn't. Great savvy and great confidence in himself. John and Michael, what they've been able to do has been incredible.

Not only that but Michael has been going deep into games, 7-8 innings.

And coming from being a reliever we wondered about that, would he be able to hold up after the 5th or 6th inning from a stamina standpoint. And he's been terrific. Last year he pitched to one hitter, maybe two hitters at a time, he'd come get the lefties out then we'd take him out. Now we're asking him to pitch the whole game almost so it's a different role for him. But he's so strong and he works so hard in the weight room. He does a lot of work between starts to prepare himself from a stamina standpoint to be able to pitch deep in games. He's made himself what he is.

What sparked you to get on Twitter?


Actually Coach Tanner came to me and basically said, I'm not going to do Twitter, but I think you need to...to keep our recruits informed, keep our players informed, keep ours fans informed about what's going on in our program. I don't tweet as much as I would like, but  when I do I think we're giving some information people are interested in. It's been beneficial for us. If you tweet all the time people might not read them all so we want it to be important, effective, and informative.

Do you think the profile of college baseball has risen or grown the past few years?

Well, we play in a league that is very unique and different from a lot of leagues across the country. The SEC is on a different playing field than everyone else as far as attendance, exposure, stadium environments, it's just different. When you're in the SEC you don't feel like you're starving for attention. It's here already. Other teams may feel they need to get out and promote their team or program, they don't get the attention that teams in the SEC get. I think that's a huge advantage for teams in our league. Baseball is extremely important in the SEC and the universities treat it as such. That's not necessarily the case in other leagues.

Does the new SEC Thursday Night Baseball series just add to that exposure and prestige of playing in the SEC?

I think it's a big recruiting tool for us. Every Thursday from this point forward there's going to be an SEC match-up on Thursday night - what a great showcase for all the programs in our league. Being able to play in front of a national television audience and promote SEC baseball is a great thing for our conference and it's a great thing for our program.

What's your favorite road trip in the SEC?


I haven't been to LSU yet because we haven't had that rotation. I'm a big fan of Nashville, Tennessee. I think it's a great city and I love country music so going to Vanderbilt is pretty neat. I like going to Kentucky - the horses, the farms. There's a lot of great places to go. Going to Alabama and seeing some history of college football in the Bear Bryant Museum, that's neat. Each school has something very unique. Arkansas has a great, very unique baseball environment in their stadium among the best in the country. There's not been one bad trip yet and I think that's a good thing for our league.

We talked before when I was working on the post about walk-up songs. Now that we're a little further into the season do you have a favorite?

I like Christian Walker's just because the fans get into it and the bullpen gets into it. I think if you can get a walk-up song the fans get into it and like it when it comes up, that's a win. His is unique. I'm not necessarily a big fan of the song, but it gets the fans involved and I think that's pretty cool. 


Baseball is preparing to face No.1-ranked Vanderbilt in a three game series this weekend at Carolina Stadium. The Gamecocks and Commodores are currently tied for first place in the SEC Eastern Division with identical 10-2 conference records. General admission/standing room only tickets remain for the Friday and Saturday games, both at 7:00 PM. Outfield Bleachers and general admission/standing room only tickets are available for Sunday's game at 1:00 PM.

Go Gamecocks!

-Brittany 


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