South Carolina second baseman Justin Row does not have the pop in his bat that Madison Stokes does, but he can contribute offensively in other ways for a Gamecocks club in need of a spark.
Row is expected to replace Stokes in the lineup down the stretch after Stokes broke his wrist last weekend against Missouri.
He has performed well in limited opportunities so far this season and will look to continue that this weekend against Georgia.
“I can hit behind runners. I can bunt. Leading off the inning, I try to find any way on base,” Row said. “I’ve always been a top of the order hitter. That’s not the case here, but being in that role, you kind of learn how to approach seeing pitches, getting a pitcher’s pitch count up, getting it going from that angle.”
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Stokes is tied for the team lead in doubles with 10, while Row is more of a singles hitter.
Row has a double, a triple, a homer and five RBIs in 21 games this season with nine starts.
The junior is also second on the team in sac bunts with five and has struck out five times in 42 at bats.
“Row’s got a great plate approach about him,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “He can handle the bat. You can hit-and-run with him… You can put him in about any spot and you feel good about him trying to get it done, whether he needs to hit a fly ball, hit behind a runner, get a bunt down. You usually feel good about Justin being in there. He’s a fundamentally sound player.”
With this weekend’s series against Georgia being critical to South Carolina’s NCAA tournament chances, Holbrook will not hesitate to bring in a different reliever late in games if a pitcher seems to be struggling.
Carolina has had problems closing games this season, losing seven times when leading entering the eighth inning.
“We’re going to play these games like there’s no tomorrow,” Holbrook said. “You manage differently when you’re not thinking about the next day. There’s no thinking about the next day. You’re thinking about the game that you’re involved in that day, and there’s nothing else that matters. That’s how we’re going to treat each and every game left that we have on our schedule.”
STILL BANGED UP
USC sophomore TJ Hopkins is still struggling with a quad injury that has caused him to miss several games.
Hopkins said he has not been 100 percent healthy since before getting injured in January.
“I feel good right now. I took a little BP today and took some outfield and felt all right,” he said Wednesday. “We’ll see how I feel tomorrow and Friday and Saturday. I hope I can play. I want to play every game. But sometimes it’s hard to. Sometimes it’s too bad, and it’s really frustrating.”