South Carolina Baseball Ready for Season Opener


If you walk outside this week, the cold and wind may hit you across the face, and you’ll think to yourself, this is football weather.  While technically you may be right, it is college baseball season that will kick-off this weekend in the brisk 40-50 degree temperatures.  With both the football and basketball teams struggling through their seasons, the perennially top 20 ranked Gamecock’s baseball team will have a little extra anticipation from fans at the start of their year.

For most college sports programs, a 71% winning percentage and a trip to the postseason is a very successful season and something to build on.  For South Carolina Baseball program, last year’s 44-18 record and exit in the regional round of the NCAA tournament was a down year.  As entitled as it sounds, after back to back seasons without reaching the College World Series, the Gamecocks will look to rebound from last year’s earlier than normal postseason exit.  That is the standard here now, after consecutive National Titles and three straight appearances in the Championship final, anything less than a trip to Omaha is considered a letdown.

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Coach Chad Holbrook will try to get his team back there this year, and he has a core of experienced players returning to help him do just that.  Two of last season’s weekend rotation, junior Jack Wynkoop and sophomore Will Crowe, return to lead the pitching staff, and will be counted on as one of the best Friday-Saturday pitching combos in the country.  Sophomore Josh Reagan is in line to be the Sunday starter and fellow second year man Taylor Widener will look to take over the closer role.  A strong group of young pitchers, who are talented even if unproven, will look to bring depth to the Carolina pitching staff.

On the field and at the plate USC will also look to lean on a handful of veterans, while hoping its youth movement can handle the steep learning curve that is the transition from high school star to SEC starter.  Senior first baseman Kyle Martin returns to the middle of Carolina’s lineup, after turning down the chance to play professionally and returning for his last season in Columbia. Junior infielders Marcus Mooney, D.C. Arendas, and senior outfielder Conner Bright are all also back from last year’s team to help form a solid core to build around.  Also back, and fully healthy, is junior 2nd baseman Max Schrock, who may be the Gamecock’s best player, if he can regain the hitting form he showed before a back injury derailed his sophomore campaign.

Coach Holbrook and company get things started this weekend as the College of Charleston, a NCAA tourney team last year, come to Carolina Stadium to open the season.  Once again there are big expectations for this team, even in the ultra-competitive SEC, which contains defending national champions Vanderbilt as one of the five teams ranked in the preseason Top 25.  South Carolina starts the year ranked #13 in the Baseball America poll.  The Gamecocks will be looking to extend its run of 15 straight appearances in the NCAA tourney, but as we know, a deep tourney run is what fans around here have come to expect.