South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook wants his starting pitchers fresh at the end of the season and plans to limit innings early on in order to do so.
Some USC pitchers, including ace Clarke Schmidt, appeared to be worn down at the end of last year and struggled late in the season.
“I’m gonna try to pace it a little bit better. We’ve got a really good bullpen, and I’m going to be really quick to turn it over to the Reed Scotts and Josh Reagans and Tyler Johnsons. I feel good about giving them the ball,” Holbrook said. “Managing Clarke and Wil (Crowe) and Adam (Hill) to make sure they’re fresh middle to late in the year is going to be a priority of mine.”
Holbrook added that all of the starters will be on a strict pitch count early on in the year, including Crowe, who will make his first start for the Gamecocks since 2015 on Saturday. Crowe missed all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015.
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“All of our guys will be on pitch counts early on. We’re not going to push the 100-pitch mark in February right now,” Holbrook said. “They’re going to get up to maybe 80-85, see how they’re feeling, but we won’t go much north of that for sure, and that goes for Clarke and Wil and Adam.”
Holbrook said he feels he has 13 players who deserve to start on Opening Day, and is disappointed he only canstart nine.
He added that, as of Thursday, he was trying to decide between five lineups he had put together.
“We’ll probably have a couple of different lineups this weekend,” he said. “Six or seven of them will be in there all three games but three or four of them might rotate in and out a little bit just so I can see how they’re going to react to game day.”
CLEAR BAG POLICY
USC is encouraging fans to not bring any type of bags inside Founders Park during games, but certain bags will be allowed. Those that will be allowed in the stadium include: One bag that is clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and does not exceed 12x6x12 inches, a one-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar), or small clutch bags that do not exceed 4.5x6.5 inches (approximately the size of a hand). An exception may be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection (Gates 1 & 3).
FAN SHUTTLE CHANGES
Parking shuttle changes have been made for this year. The baseball shuttle to Founders Park will now be operational at the Key Road Gravel Lot (1105 Key Road) and in Lot B of the Colonial Life Arena parking lot. Shuttles will begin running two hours prior to game time. USC is recommending fans use the baseball shuttle from Key Road to Founders Park over the CLA shuttle for the convenience, spacious parking and less congestion than at the arena. The shuttle will no longer be run at Capital City Baseball Stadium.
USC’s projected starting lineup for Opening Day
RF: TJ Hopkins – The speedy sophomore is expected to be one of the most improved players on the team.
LF: Jacob Olson – The transfer was impressive in the preseason and should earn a spot in the Opening Day lineup.
DH: Alex Destino – The leading returning hitter for the Gamecocks, Destino should be primed to have a big junior year.
C: Chris Cullen – The sophomore added more than 20 pounds to his frame this offseason and should be near the top of the team in slugging percentage.
1B: Matt Williams – The left-handed hitter impressed during the fall and preseason scrimmages to earn the starting job at first base.
SS: Madison Stokes – The Columbia native played exceptionally well in the preseason while making the move to shortstop.
3B: Jonah Bride – Perhaps the best defender on the team, Bride was also a solid contributor offensively for the Gamecocks in 2016.
2B: LT Tolbert – The sophomore played well at the end of 2016 and will look to build on that this season.
CF: Danny Blair – One of the fastest players on the team, Blair is very good defensively and can cause problems on the bases with his speed.
P: Clarke Schmidt – The junior will once again be the Gamecocks’ ace.