OMAHA, Neb. - It seems as though every time South Carolina takes the field, a future first round pitcher will toe the rubber for the opposition. The Gamecocks (46-17) now face the tough task of going against Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek on Monday night.
The Gamecocks had a 90 minute practice at Creighton University on Sunday afternoon and the coaches, throwing batting practice, stood behind the L screen halfway between the pitchers mound and home plate and pumped in fastballs as hard as they could.
Stanek will bring his fastball up into the mid-90s and, according to head coach Ray Tanner is a early pick in next year’s MLB Draft. Seemingly every game, South Carolina faces a future first rounder while its starting pitcher is overlooked.
“This Arkansas team is playing their best baseball of the year with Stanek on the mound against us tomorrow,” Tanner said. “He’s a guy that will probably be in the first 10 or 12 picks in the Major League Draft. Once again, our work is cut out for us with a guy on the mound as dominating as Stanek is.”
The Gamecocks jumped all over Stanek in an 8-6 victory earlier this season in Fayetteville, Ark. The right-hander allowed five earned runs on six hits in 5.0 innings. That doesn’t mean Tanner is any less wary of what his team has to face.
South Carolina will counter with junior Colby Holmes, who went undrafted this season, despite his 7-1 record in 14 starts.
“I feel like I’m good enough to get drafted,” Holmes said. “It’s just not something I really dwell on.”
Holmes has a 2.80 earned run average and has not allowed a run and only two hits in 13.0 innings pitched this postseason.
With the caliber of pitchers on the mound, Tanner is expecting runs to come at a premium between the two pitching-heavy teams on Monday night at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN2.
Junior Colby Holmes prepares for Monday's start against Arkansas by taking a few laps around the field on a tricycle
“You would think, in this park, the game would be a little more low-scoring,” Tanner said.
Tanner undecided on catcher: Junior Dante Rosenberg caught every inning of the Regional and Super Regional after freshman Grayson Greiner went down with a left knee injury. Rosenberg picked up the start in Saturday night’s 7-3 victory over Florida but Greiner pinch hit in the fourth inning.
Greiner is healthy now and can provide a little bit more punch in the batting order, as evidenced by his 31 RBIs this season. Rosenberg has been great defensively since his insertion into the lineup this postseason but that is an area that Greiner has excelled in as well this year.
Add it all together and Tanner has a tough decision to make.
“I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do,” Tanner said. “Rosenberg has been outstanding for us being pushed into that role. Last night, I pinch hit a little earlier than maybe I should have. I probably should have waited one more round before I got him in there.
In Rosenberg’s only plate appearance on Saturday, he moved runners on a sacrifice bunt. Greiner had four plate appearances, which included three strikeouts and a walk.
“Grayson is a little bit rusty swinging the bat but the good news is, Grayson can catch,” Tanner said. “He is able to get in there and do a good job. I need to make a decision on who starts tomorrow.”
They’ll be ready: When the Gamecocks take the field on Monday night against Arkansas, they’ll have every arm in their bullpen at their disposal. Tanner confirmed after Sunday’s practice that junior Matt Price and Tyler Webb will be available against the Razorbacks.
Webb faced three hitters and threw just six pitches, four of which were balls to intentionally walk Dick Howser Award winner Mike Zunino. He got Preston Tucker and Brian Johnson on his other two pitches.
Price threw 42 pitches against the Gators over two innings. He allowed two hits and struck out three to pick up his 12th save of the season. The save also moved him past Josh Fields into sole possession of first place on the SEC’s all-time saves list for a career.
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