The preseason is over which means more than just game week for head coach Chad Holbrook. While he’s looking forward to first pitch, he also has some decisions to make with his roster.
First-year head coach Chad Holbrook says he's a lot more excited than nervous as he prepares for his first game as a head coach at South Carolina. The Gamecocks open the season on Friday at 3 p.m. against Liberty.
Q&A with Holbrook
Are you pleased with where the team is right now with the scrimmages over and headed into game week?
I’m very encouraged. We think we have a number of talented guys who deserve to play. The unfortunate part to me is we probably have more than nine. It’s not going to be an easy deal to make the starting lineup up, but that’s a good problem to have. Some guys have stood out and some guys have really worked hard. The things I’m most pleased with is the way the pitchers have thrown the ball and the way we play defense, especially on the infield and behind the plate. We have some new guys in the outfield learning how to play. Ahmad and Shon haven’t played much outfield the last couple of years. Good athletes get better at that pretty quick and I expect them to do that as well. I feel really good about our team and they’re excited to see another colored jersey walk in, for sure.
Do you have a sense to what the weekend rotation is going to be?
No, I mean, I’ll talk with coach Meyers on it tomorrow. Obviously Colby and Jordan are going to throw on the weekend for sure but I don’t know the order yet. We’ve got to have some conversations with Coach about the Sunday spot. (Jack) Wynkoop is in the mix, Nolan Belcher is in the mix and Patrick Sullivan, the way he threw, is in the mix, too. He threw the best he’s thrown since he’s been here (Saturday). We have some deserving guys in that spot. We’ll make the decisions on that early in the week.
You have to feel pretty good about how you line up defensively in the middle of the field.
I think we have a chance to be in most games because I think we will pitch and play defense. Tanner (English), the switching hitting thing, I think has been good for him. He’s making contact a lot more. I think that’s going to increase his on-base percentage and that’s what’s important for Tanner. I’ve been tickled to death with how Ahmad (Christian) has played; he’s been one of our toughest outs. He’s going to get in there and going to play. Graham (Saiko) has been one of our toughest outs, collectively, since August and we started fall practice. Grayson (Greiner) is swinging the bat well as are a number of our veteran guys. If you pitch and play defense, you stay in games.
Have you settled on your eight walk-on spots?
No. The competition is over now but it’s a very difficult call. It’s not easy because someone is going to be left out who deserves to be on it. It’s difficult on us to make that call btu it’s one that will be made probably on Wednesday. I have to have the 35 guys in by Thursday. After discussing it with coach Meyers, I know six for sure that are in there but those final two spots are a tough call.
Did Kyle Martin help himself today with two doubles and a walk?
That was a big day for him because he’s struggled. He’s had a tough preseason so far. Today, it was good to see him swing the bat well. He’s big and strong and can put a charge into some balls. I don’t think he’ll start at first base opening day but he’s going to get his fair share of at-bats.
Ryan Ripken had a better weekend.
Well, he’s done fine this weekend. He hasn’t played as well as he would have liked to up until this weekend. He’s had some pressure on him and all eyes are on him because of his last name. It’s probably unfair for Ryan. He did have a good weekend this weekend and it was good to see.
Your first game as a head coach is coming up. Nervous? Excited? What’s going through your head?
A lot, btu more excitement than nerves. It’s an awesome opportunity. I feel like we have a good team. We have some great leaders on the team and great coaches beside them. I’m excited about where we are and getting the season started. It’s going to be a fun team to watch.
With the football guys, at one point does not having much experience cease to be an excuse for missing so many fly balls?
It’s about that time because they’re good enough athletes - they were terrific today in BP, Ahmad especially. He was great today until the last play, but that’s not an easy play. It’s one of those betweeners and he hasn’t really had many reps on those plays. As far as going back on the ball and plays he made in BP, and the way he played defense on Friday, he looked like a big leaguer out there. It’s coming. He’s going to make some errors, but he’s going to be fine. I think he’ll be a great outfielder by the time the middle of the season rolls around.
On Shon Carson …
He doesn’t know how to play centerfield yet. We ask him to catch everything and he’s not quite aggressive enough, but he’ll get there. He’s an incredible talent. He’ll get his opportunities, too, and he’ll help you win a game. He can bunt; he’s a great bunter and can run like the wind. It’s going to take him a little more time than Ahmad. Ahmad is a little bit more ready, as we sit here right now for opening day, than Shon is, but they both factor in.
Weekend scrimmage impressions
Friday scrimmage impressions - There were some big players who have been a little bit quiet so far this preseason but exploded on Friday during the scrimmage. Find out who and how their games have progressed in this update.
Saturday scrimmage impressions - The scrimmage on Saturday left a lot to be desired because of the play of the outfield defense. Get the breakdown of what exactly happened but also some encouraging aspects from the day. Also, get the latest on the Sunday starting role.
Sunday scrimmage impressions - The team finished its final scrimmage on Sunday afternoon as it prepares to face Liberty this Friday at 3 p.m. Find out just where the Gamecocks are as the scrimmages come to a close, the roster is finalized, and the season begins.
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