South Carolina’s Alex Destino is hoping to have a breakout sophomore season. Through two weekends of scrimmages, he appears poised to do so.
Destino is looking to improve on his numbers from his freshman season after hitting .251 with six home runs and 35 RBIs. South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said he’s been nothing but impressive thus far.
“He’s swinging the bat well. He looks like one of the best hitters in the country right now,” Holbrook said Sunday. “Hopefully, he’ll have a consistent year and swing it like he’s swinging it now.”
Destino was used mostly as a designated hitter as a freshman, but will play primarily first base this season, replacing Kyle Martin. He may also see some time on the mound.
There was talk of Destino possibly playing outfield, but USC’s other outfielders have been so impressive that Holbrook doesn’t want to take one of them out of the lineup.
“I want to get him ready to play first base, and he’s going to play first base to start the year. I don’t know about every day, but I love the way our outfielders are playing. For me to put the offensive lineup that I want to put out there, I need Destino playing a position,” Holbrook said. “We’re going to need him play first base. If I put him in left, it’s going to take one of our best athletes off the field.”
MISCUES NOT A CONCERN
The Gamecocks struggled defensively at times this weekend, but Holbrook believes those errors will be cleaned up by the time the season starts.
He said some mistakes were expected as Carolina tries to decide who will play where on the field this season.
“Some of our defensive lapses this weekend were guys playing all over the place. We were experimenting with a few guys. I’m not at all concerned about that,” Holbrook said. “But that being said, we have to work on making it hard on our opponents to score. That’s one of our trademarks.”
CONFIDENCE AT CATCHER
Holbrook said before the start of spring practices that he was very comfortable with his options at catcher. John Jones, Hunter Taylor and Chris Cullen have not disappointed in scrimmages.
Holbrook believes there is a chance that two or three of his catchers could be in the lineup at the same time this season.
“All three of them bring something good to our team. We’re going to need all three of them at some point this year,” he said. “They’re a big part of the team. Obviously they won’t all three play the same amount of time, but I love all three of them. Right now, I love the way Cullen catches and receives and his at-bats are getting better. Jones is a physical presence in the middle of the lineup and Hunter does a lot of things well. He’s been here and has some experience. We’ll keep watching that competition unfold.”
FRESHMEN COULD PLAY EARLY
Several freshmen could be in South Carolina’s lineup on Opening Day, and others who are not in the lineup will be counted on to contribute throughout the year.
The Gamecocks brought in 12 freshmen this season, and several have impressed in scrimmages, including TJ Hopkins, Braden Webb, Cullen, Adam Hill, LT Tolbert and Brandon McIlwain. Holbrook said he doesn’t care about experience as far as who will be in the lineup.
“I don’t care if they’re freshmen or juniors. I’m going to play who I think gives us the best chance to win that day,” he said. “Just because they’ve been here three years doesn’t guarantee them a starting position. We’ll see how it unfolds. All those freshmen are impressive and will be a big part of our team. They won’t all play every day, but I think all of them will have a pretty significant role on our team.”
USC pounded out more than 20 hits during Sunday’s scrimmage, and Holbrook was impressed by what he saw.
“Our offensive guys, our hitters, are getting their feet under them a little bit,” Holbrook said. “We put some hits together, put some good swings of the bat on the ball pretty much all weekend long.”