South Carolina finished up its six weeks of fall practice on Sunday afternoon when Patrick Sullivan’s team beat Nolan Belcher’s in the Garnet & Black World Series. Read what first-year head coach Chad Holbrook had to say about his team’s progress from the start of fall camp in September to the final day of team practice.
First-year head baseball coach Chad Holbrook talks about how his team improved from the start of fall practice to the end, how the pitching rotation may shape out, and more following the final game of the Garnet & Black World Series on Sunday afternoon
Q&A with Holbrook
How would you assess the improvements your team made from the beginning of fall practice until now?
Well, I was really pleased with the fall World Series. The guys competed a little bit. We played great defense and our pitchers were terrific. The pitchers we’re counting on to do some great things for us this spring I thought really threw well. I thought the difference in (Sunday’s) game was Colby Holmes and it should be with a kid who has been here four years, pitched in Omaha, and helped us win a championship or two. He was very impressive. We got a lot better as the fall went on from a defensive standpoint. Our pitchers were as good as I thought they were going to be. We still have a lot of work to do. The fall is not over for our guys. We will have to work hard in November and the first couple weeks of December to continue to get ready for February.
Did you think you’d have a combined no-hitter in the last game of the World Series?
The good news about it is our pitcher was throwing it. The bad news is, some of our hitters were trying to hit off him and couldn’t put anything together. Colby Holmes was terrific. It is a surprise to have a no-hitter thrown in the fall, that’s for sure, but over the course of the fall, we’ve had some tremendous at-bats. We’ve had some tremendous pitchers outings. We had some good days and bad days. They brought it pretty much every day this fall but one day, they brought it. That’s all I can ask for as a coach. We have to work to continue to get better, but we certainly have some pieces in place, I think, to have a really competitive team.
What is your sense as you leave fall practice on your corners - both outfield and infield?
I think Graham Saiko has won a position. He was a guy that was brought in to play shortstop and middle infielder but he’s a way better baseball player than I thought he was. He’s going to play somewhere. You could make a case he’s been our position player of the fall with the type of fall he’s had offensively. I think it’s working itself out. Chase Vergason deserves to play based on what he’s done in the past, so we’re going to work him in at third base some. (Max) Schrock is probably our best hitter and he looks like he’s going to be our second baseman. There’s still some positions in the corner outfield - Ahmad Christian and Shon Carson are going to be joining us as soon as football season is over. We’ve got to give those guys some opportunities, too. I told those guys today, the lineup is not in concrete. There are still positions to be won, but you can’t ignore what Graham Saiko did this fall and what Max Schrock did this fall. You feel like he gives you a great at-bat every time he steps in the batters’ box.
Will Kwinton Smith join the team and will Shon Carson’s injury allow him to play?
Junior Graham Saiko
I don’t know. I talked to Shon yesterday and we’ll have to evaluate where his wrist is. It’s a tough injury, so we’ll have to see. Kwinton was a great high school player and has a great arm; he can pitch and play centerfield. We want to give him the opportunity as well. I mentioned Ahmad and Shon just because they’ve been out here before, but we recruited Kwinton hard as a baseball player, so he’ll have that opportunity as well. We have some tough decisions to make. We can only have eight guys who are not on baseball scholarship on our roster come February. There are some tough calls to make, that’s for sure, but there are also baseball to be played between now and opening day.
Do you have a pretty good idea of who your starting pitchers and closer will be this year?
Well, I don’t know who our closer is going to be. I do know this - Colby Holmes looked a Friday night guy today, but so did Jordan Montgomery and Jack Wynkoop. We feel really good about the depth of our pitching staff. I don’t know who we’re going to ask to get our last three outs right now. If I had to guess, if we had to play tomorrow, it would be Tyler Webb. He would be the guy because of the experience; he was dominant in the first inning and was dominant in the fall. He wasn’t his normal self in the second and third inning today, but he’s been through the wars for us. I don’t know who our closer is going to be. We also have (Joey) Pankake in the thought process in regards to that - a 94, 95 miles per hour fastball. We didn’t pitch him this weekend because he’s nursing a groin injury. We’re just glad we got him.
Fall practice concluded over the weekend as Patrick Sullivan’s Garnet squad took two of three games in the Garnet & Black World Series. Over the course of the next week, we’ll take a look at how the roster will shake out going forward, award SPURlatives for top performers, break down the projected starters at each position, and much more. If you like Gamecock Baseball, stay tuned to TheBigSpur.com for the best coverage of the team!
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