Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Gamecock Baseball Season Preview

Last night, Holbrook, Myers, and Esposito spoke at a Palmetto Club dinner to give a season preview. I took a few notes, and thought I would share with fellow USC Baseball fans. It's long, so I'm putting it below a jump.

Holbrook started by noting that the baseball team had over a 3.0 average in the fall semester. He made a point that he was very proud of the fact that our baseball team works hard in the classroom. After that he dove into the on the field stuff.

He started that by letting us know that his number one question was "Why did you move Pankake to third base?" He said it was because he was tired of watching him play shortstop like he's been playing it. He said that Brian Buscher has been working with Joey on transitioning to third base, and that things have been going well. He's hopeful that this will also give Pankake more time to focus on this hitting.

At shortstop, he said there were three guys competing to take the starting position. If he had to name a starter today, it would probably be Marcus Mooney, who was probably "a little bit ahead" of the other two guys. Those two other guys are D.C. Arendas and Jordan Gore. Of Gore, he said that he will try and get him some ABs somewhere, as his hitting is coming along nicely.

At second base, Schrock has it locked down. Holbrook said that "he has a chance to be an All American" although he hates to put that kind of pressure on a young kid.

At first base, it will be K-Mart, who Holbrook said "has been the MVP of the fall, if we had that sort of award". Holbrook sounded very pleased with K-Mart's hitting. Hopefully, we'll see some solid production from our first baseman.

Behind the plate, it's Greiner, who Holbrook said "is the heart and soul of the team". He also said "If you asked me what my one fear going into the season is, it's that something happens to Greiner." He went on to say that he didn't mean to put down the guys backing up Greiner, but that Greiner was just so much ahead of them, it was a compliment to Greiner.

Around the outfield, it will be English in center, and Connor Bright has right pretty much locked down. Left field will likely see Elliott Caldwell, who is "a strong, physical guy".

After that Jerry Myers went through the pitching. He started off by joking that he hoped the team would be really great offensively, so as to take pressure off the pitching staff. He has a real dry sense of humor. Monty is the Friday night guy, and he's learned more from last year. Myers told a story about how much more Montgomery has learned from last year: Apparently, on the way to Vanderbilt, Montgomery asked why they were going to Tennessee. He thought Vanderbilt was located in North Carolina. Myers said that Monty now knows that Vanderbilt is in Tennessee, so he's good to go this year.

Saturday will have Wynkoop and Sunday will likely see Wil Crowe. Myers made an interested comment that the #2 and #3 starters are probably equally as important as the set-up guy and closer, so Crowe could see the end of games rather than start.

Going into that, he said that Cody Mincey could get a a chance "to get the last 6 outs" this year, along with Joel Seddon and Evan Beal (and I guess Crowe, possibly). He did note that Beal is not as consistent as the other guys in that "his highs are high, and his lows are low". Myers said that it's going to be tough replacing Westmoreland and Webb, as they were great guys who ate a lot of innings last year.

Vince Fiori is a lefty to had TJ surgery in high school, so they're looking for him to get more comfortable this year and he has "good enough stuff" to be "a left-handed answer out of the bullpen". Myers said "of the 15-16 guys on the staff, about half will be new names" to folks who paid attention last year.

Esposito then went through the recruiting update. First, he noted that over 6,000 season tickets have already been sold to date, and that is a big selling point to recruits on the trail. He emphasized that kids like to play in front of big crowds, and that us, as the fans, have a big effect on recruiting. He said "It's kind of like SEC football on a smaller scale. On Saturdays in the fall, they have 85,000 at Williams-Brice. We have almost 8,500 for the baseball team on an SEC weekend, and that's something that most teams can't say."

He went through the 2014 recruiting class, and although I didn't get down the names (he was going fast) he let it be clear that USC was getting some of the top prospects from around the southeast while holding down SC. Being on TV in the playoffs has certainly helped our visibility beyond our state.

Holbrook came back up to finish up. He mentioned that Tanner is always calling him to "check in" on the baseball team, and Holbrook did a good Tanner impression of Tanner giving him a hard time. Holbrook said that the SEC is stacking up tough this year, and he wouldn't be surprised "if 10 SEC teams were in the top 25 at the same time at any point this year". He said that Tennessee is improved, Florida and Vandy are good, and that LSU and MSU are very good teams.

He said that Tanner would always say "You have 30 SEC games each year. You're going to win 10 no matter what you do, and you're going to lose 10 no matter what you do. It's what you do with the 10 in the middle that matter." Holbrook said that's where the "Win Anyway" concept came from.

Other than that, there were a few questions about the new ball, which doesn't go into effect this year, and questions about this team's 'intangibles". Holbrook said (rightly in my opinion) that you can't compare this year's team to the guys we've had in the past. It's just not fair.

Food was good, but I figured you didn't need the rundown on that.

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