Baseball Opens 2014 Season Saturday Vs. Bucknell In A Doubleheader
Feb. 14, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina will open the 2014 season on Saturday beginning a three-game series vs. Bucknell at Carolina Stadium. Saturday is a doubleheader with first pitch at Noon and game two of the doubleheader tentatively set for 4 p.m. Pregame ceremonies on Opening Day are set to begin at 11:40 a.m. Sunday's series finale is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
Internet: Live Gametracker stats at GamecocksOnline.com. Live video streaming for all three games. Additional coverage on Twitter @GamecockBasebll and Facebook/Gamecocksonline
PROBABLE PITCHING ROTATION
Saturday Game 2 (2013 Stats)
South Carolina - Wil Crowe (Fr. RHP) 2013 at Piegeon Forge HS (Tenn.)
Date - Winner - Score - Site
OPENING DAY FESTIVITIES The weekend festivities will kickoff on Saturday with a ceremony dedicating the home bullpen to former Gamecock All-American Michael Roth. Athletics Director Ray Tanner and Cocky along with Billy Moore, a long-time supporter of South Carolina athletics, and his family will unveil a plaque beside the home bullpen officially naming it after Roth. At approximately 11:40 a.m. a pregame presentation will take place and fans will get to see a special message from Roth.
Roth pitched for South Carolina from 2009-2012 and was a member of the 2010 and 2011 National Championship teams. Roth was selected by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2012 MLB Draft.
Moore, originally from Bennettsville, S.C. graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1980. A member of both the Gamecock Club and the Garnet Way Cabinet, Moore and his family have generously given to the Garnet Way Campaign.
Moore will throw out a ceremonial first pitch and his daughter, Mary English, a new recording artist with MTV, will sing the National Anthem as well.
The weekend festivities continue before the start of the second game when the Athletics Department will dedicate the new playground at Carolina Stadium to Hay Fant Sparks. Athletics Director Ray Tanner and Cocky along with Sparks and his family will take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony.
A graduate of the College of Engineering and Computing, Sparks is a life-long Gamecock fan and, along with his family, has made a generous donation to South Carolina Athletics.
During a pregame presentation, the dedication ceremony will be shown on the video board.
DID YOU KNOW??
GAMECOCKS IN THE RANKINGS
LEAGUE COACHES PREDICT SOUTH CAROLINA TO WIN SEC
Carolina has finished in the top three places of the SEC Eastern Division 17 of 22 seasons since joining the league. The 2014 season begins on Friday, February 14 as the Gamecocks host a three-game series with Bucknell at Carolina Stadium. The Gamecocks are nationally ranked as high as No. 7 in the country by Baseball America.
In addition to picking a preseason champion, the head coaches voted a predicted order of finish in the SEC Eastern and Western Divisions. Points were compiled on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for each division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
2014 SEC COACHES PRESEASON POLL RESULTS
SEC Champion: South Carolina (5); LSU (4), Mississippi State (4); Vanderbilt (1)
SOUTH CAROLINA'S SEC HISTORY
YEAR RECORD DIV. FINISH 1992 13-11 2nd 1993 15-10-1 2nd 1994 11-15 4th 1995 12-14 3rd 1996 13-17 5th 1997 13-17 4th 1998 19-10 2nd 1999 15-15 1st 2000 25-5 1st 2001 17-13 3rd 2002 21-8 1st 2003 19-11 1st 2004 17-13 2nd 2005 16-14 2nd 2006 15-15 4th 2007 17-13 2nd 2008 15-15 5th 2009 17-13 2nd 2010 21-9 2nd 2011 22-8 T1st 2012 18-11 1st 2013 17-12 2nd Overall: 368-269-1 (.577)
SEC EAST TITLES (6)
SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS (3)
SEC TOURNAMENT TITLE (1)
SEC Win Totals in SEC games since 2000
1. South Carolina 257-160 2. LSU 244-171-3 3. Florida 241-177-2 4. Ole Miss 222-197 5. Alabama 213-205 6. Arkansas 209-203 Vanderbilt 209-203 8. Georgia 196-215-1 9. Auburn 191-229 10. Mississippi State 188-222 11. Tennessee 167-245 12. Kentucky 159-256-2 13. Texas A&M 13-16 14. Missouri 10-20
note - only conference games, does not include SEC Tournament or NCAA postseason games. Texas A&M and Missouri joined the SEC after the 2012 season.
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Greiner played this past summer for Team USA and was a 2013 second-team All-SEC selection. Baseball America ranks Greiner the No. 24 best college prospect for the 2014 MLB Draft as well as the No. 2 best catching prospect in the country. He hit .298 with four homers and 38 RBI. Greiner also was the team's top hitter in SEC games as he hit .310 (31-for-100) in 27 league contests last year.
Pankake is one of the top returning hitters in the SEC and the country. A participant in last year's Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Pankake raised his average to .311 last year to go along with 11 homers and 42 RBI and a slugging percentage of .496. Perfect Game USA ranks him No. 30 on the list of top college draft-eligible players for the 2014 MLB Draft with Baseball America listing him No. 40 in the nation.
A LOOK CLOSER
"We had a good fall," stated head coach Chad Holbrook. "I don't know if we answered all the questions that we wanted to have answered. We saw some really good play from some position players, some of our young pitchers were very impressive and I think some of our older guys improved."
Talent will be on display at Carolina Stadium again this year. Junior infielder Joey Pankake returns and is a second-team Preseason All-America selection by Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA. Junior catcher Grayson Greiner played this past summer for Team USA, earned second-team All-SEC honors and Baseball America ranks him as the No. 24 best college prospect for the 2014 MLB Draft. Junior southpaw Jordan Montgomery is back in the fold as well after a solid sophomore campaign. Montgomery's 1.48 ERA in 2013 ranked second best among SEC pitchers and No. 11 in the nation. Montgomery was 6-1 in 79.0 innings pitched. Opponents hit just .222 against the left-hander. Junior outfielder Tanner English and junior first baseman Kyle Martin bring a wealth of experience and were at the top of their games last year near the end of the season as both were named to the 2013 NCAA Regional All-Tournament team. A pair of sophomore standouts also saw extensive action last year in the form of second baseman Max Schrock and left-hander Jack Wynkoop, both Freshman All-America recipients.
"I think offensively we have a chance to have a very good team," said Holbrook. "Max Schrock, Joey Pankake, Tanner English, Grayson Greiner, Connor Bright, those type of guys, Kyle Martin had a great fall, we feel very good where we are offensively as a team. From a pure talent stand point and ability, we have a chance to have a strong offensive club."
All those players figured prominently in last year's road to the super regional. The Gamecocks hit .316 (68-for-215) as a team in the postseason last year, fifth best among all 64 postseason squads and reached base at a .409 clip with a .442 slugging percentage, both those marks fourth best in the country as well.
Still, Coach Holbrook has indicated that defense and pitching is a key part of the equation to making a run at the College World Series and competing for a national title. As the staff knows from the 2010 and 2011 national championships teams, it is imperative to have success on the mound and in the field.
"The success of our season is going to be determined with how we pitch and how we play defense," stated Holbrook. "If we pitch and play defense, regardless if we hit to our potential, we can have a great year. That is my main concern. Can we play defense the way we have played defense around here in the past and can we develop some of the young pitchers and can they handle some prominent roles that they will be subject to?"
Pankake is making the move to third base this year and could see time in either of the corner outfield spots. Last season he hit .311 with 11 homers and 42 RBI and a .496 slugging percentage. One of the top power hitters in the country, he also competed in the Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha last year. Schrock came on late in the year to raise his season average to .282. He added six homers and 39 RBI as well and stole a team-high 14 bases. He will start the year at second base.
Joining both in the infield will be junior Kyle Martin, who is expected to start the year at first base. Martin was the NCAA Regional MVP last June and one of the top players of this past fall. A left-handed hitter with a left-handed glove, Martin looks to be in store for a big 2014 and could hit in the middle of the lineup throughout the year.
Coach Holbrook and the staff are excited with the team's options at shortstop as well this year. Sophomores DC Arendas and Marcus Mooney will see action early in the year and freshman Jordan Gore has shown promise as well. Mooney comes to South Carolina after a year at Palm Beach State College. He is the brother of former Gamecock shortstop Peter Mooney. Both he and Arendas have been stellar defensively and displayed confidence at the plate.
"(Our) defensive play did get better in the fall," said Holbrook. We played great defense (in the Garnet & Black World Series) and we turned a number of double plays. Marcus [Mooney] can really handle the ball, DC [Arendas] made some nice plays. DC was close to leading our team in hitting for the fall. Jordan Gore has really played his rear end off, he's shown polish, he's made all the plays, he's on base all the time and he's swung the bat well. What I'm going to tell our middle infielders is be prepared to play all three spots, meaning second, short and third. I want them to be very comfortable at all three."
Comfort for Coach Holbrook also comes at the catcher's position as junior Grayson Greiner returns. A member of the U.S. National Team this past summer, Greiner is one of the top catchers in nation and a potential All-American behind the plate. He will handle the bulk of the work this year and should hit in the middle after showing improvement with the bat in the fall.
"Grayson is an extremely important guy," noted Holbrook. "We have to make sure we keep him healthy and fresh. There is no way there's a better catcher in the country at the college level than Grayson Greiner."
Equally impressive from a defensive standpoint up the middle for the Gamecocks is junior center fielder Tanner English. His diving catch at North Carolina in last year's super regional was the No. 2 best play of the day on ESPN's SportsCenter, one of many defensive highlights he had last season. Now in his third season with the program, Coach Holbrook indicated he is encouraged with the improvement English has made at the plate. That improvement at the plate could lead to him being the leadoff hitter for 2014.
"Tanner English had a nice fall," said Holbrook. "He walked 13 times, which is new for him. He tends to be very aggressive at the plate, as we all know, so he's learning how to be a little bit more patient. "I don't think there is a better center fielder in the country than Tanner English. The way he goes to the ball, the plays he makes, he is very gifted."
Joining English in the outfield is another junior, Connor Bright. Versatile as any player on the team, he will primarily play right field but can move to the other corner spot and play some infield as well. Junior college transfer Elliott Caldwell has fit right in from day one stepping on campus and is expected to be in left field. Caldwell had a tremendous 2013 season at Spartanburg Methodist College as he helped lead the team to the NJCAA World Series. He could also see action at third base.
"I think Elliott can have a big offensive year for us," indicated Holbrook. "He is a good all-around player that does a lot of things well."
Holbrook also has mentioned the sturdy play of freshman Gene Cone, who brings a spark defensively and will factor in, especially near the end of games with his plus throwing arm and decent speed.
"I like the mix of returning players and newcomers" said Holbrook.
"Jordan is one of the top pitchers in the country," stated Holbrook. "What he shows is you don't have to throw the hardest to be an All-American. On the mound he shows extremely important traits. The way he carries himself on the mound, the way he competes, the confidence he has. He leads through work ethic and the way he goes about his craft and in the weight room and in the days he is not on the mounds, the young pitchers have to see all the work and preparation he puts into it."
Also anticipated to rejoin Montgomery in the rotation again this year is sophomore left-hander Jack Wynkoop. Wynkoop won seven games as a freshman including a pair of outstanding back-to-back performances in mid-late April in victories vs. Kentucky and at LSU that garnered him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
It is quite possible that a newcomer could join the two lefties on the weekend in the third starting role. Baseball America this past fall ranked South Carolina's recruiting class third in the nation, with the contingent of new arms being at the forefront of that class. Right-hander Wil Crowe turned down potential seven-figure offers to come to campus; he was the 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Tennessee and a High School All-American. Crowe won a state title his senior year, so too did freshman left-hander Josh Reagan, who also picked up High School All-American accolades from Collegiate Baseball.
"As far as the third starter, there's a lot of competition going on there and that's going to continue to go on," said Holbrook. "Josh Reagan can make a case that he's been our most consistent pitcher all fall. He threw 20 innings and had a 1.35 ERA and walked one, so he has an idea of how to pitch. Wil Crowe was impressive as well, John Parke was impressive and Taylor Widener threw the ball very well in his first extended outing."
"Last year our bullpen roles were pretty set," noted Holbrook. "This year they are not as we go into the season. That doesn't mean we don't have options. We love the makeup of the pitching staff, the depth of the pitching staff. The inexperience is a little bit concerning. How some react to prominent roles will ultimately determine the type of year we have."
Two veterans that will get a crack at innings are juniors Evan Beal and Joel Seddon. Both right-handers had a successful summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League with Cotuit. Sophomore right-hander Curt Britt returns as well, he should be a candidate for innings out of the bullpen. Redshirt sophomore Vince Fiori caught the eyes of the staff in the fall. Fiori and Kyle Martin are potential left-handed arms that the Gamecocks can use in some left-on-left spots. Parke, Reagan and Widener may also be asked to come on in relief for some important innings.
Several freshman right-handers will also be valuable options. Matthew Vogel may have the best velocity on the staff. He was a 2013 MLB Draft selection as well and decided to come to school. Tyler Haswell and Reed Scott had positive outings in the preseason and will factor in. Senior Hunter Privette is back and with the addition of junior college transfer Trey McNickle, the Gamecocks have a pair of sidearmers in the mold of former Gamecocks John Taylor and Jose Mata. Junior college transfer Cody Mincey was a big part of the success for Spartanburg Methodist and the team's run to the 2013 NJCAA World Series. He is expected to contribute as well.