Freshman Joey Pankake emerged early on out of a crowded group of new infielders to win the shortstop job. He is the first freshman to start at short on opening day since Reese Havens in 2006.
Freshman shortstop Joey Pankake
Pankake, an Easley High School standout, signed with the Gamecocks after previously being committed to College of Charleston. He is known for his bat and strong throwing arm but one of the areas he’s improved the most since arriving to school is fielding.
The right-handed slugger was pitched four questions and rifled back four answers just before the start of the 2012 season.
What kind of emotions are going through your head right now with your first game at South Carolina just hours away?
“I try to compare it to Christmas time when you’re a little kid but I’m probably more excited than that. There’s a little nervousness. There’s always a little nervousness when you go out on the field to try to be the best you can be.”
What were some of the things that you wanted to work on in between the fall and the preseason?
“Mainly my defense. I was a little shaky at the beginning of the fall, but it’s gotten better. You could probably see it was a little shaky early, but hopefully you can see that it’s gotten better.”
You were one of the top hitters in the fall but things haven’t gone your way at the plate this preseason. Is it frustrating and what have the coaches said to you?
“You deal with it. It’s part of the game. You’re going to fail more than you succeed at the plate. I look at it that I’ve gotten out too many times so far, and it’s time for the hits to start falling. The coaches just keep telling me to keep hitting it. My strikeout numbers weren’t very high. I’m just hitting it right at people. My at-bats haven’t bit bad. The hits just aren’t falling right now.”
You pitched a couple of times in the fall and just once in the preseason. What do you expect your pitching role to be like this year?
“I throw a short bullpen about once a week. My priority is shortstop right now and that’s what it’s going to stay.”