South Carolina moved into the low 30s in the RPI with its win against Missouri on Thursday and is trying to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks could greatly help their tournament chances with a win against either Kentucky or LSU on Friday. The Tigers and Wildcats both have RPIs in the top 10.
USC coach Chad Holbrook believes his team has done enough in Hoover to at least enter the conversation, especially with the injuries USC has dealt with. Ace Clarke Schmidt, closer Tyler Johnson, catcher Chris Cullen, outfielder TJ Hopkins and shortstop Madison Stokes have all missed significant time this year.
“We’ve had a lot thrown at us. It’s satisfying to see us play the way we’re playing right now. It might be too little too late. It might not be. That being said, if we’re lucky enough to get into the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be a tough out with the way we’re playing now,” he said. “I think the toughness that we’ve showed with all the adversity we’ve faced, it’s a little bit tougher group than we probably were at the midpoint of the season.”
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South Carolina left fielder Carlos Cortes isn’t getting many pitches to hit in the SEC Tournament, but the few balls that have been thrown in the strike zone, he hasn’t missed.
The freshman has three home runs and eight RBIs in USC’s first three games in Hoover, despite being walked eight times.
He is hitting .429 with an on-base percentage of .733 and has led the Gamecocks to two victories in the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2007.
“I feel good. I’m seeing the ball pretty well,” Cortes said. “It’s more for my team. We don’t want to lose, and we don’t want this to end.”
Holbrook was aware that Cortes had this type of potential and is glad to see the Florida native living up to the hype.
In 30 SEC games, Cortes is hitting .327 with 10 homers, six doubles and 32 RBIs.
“All he needed to do was to get confident and get comfortable, and he did that. Early in the season, he wasn’t comfortable and he was probably pressing a little too much chasing pitches out of the strike zone,” Holbrook said. “Now he’s comfortable and doing well. You can see his swing is as beautiful a swing as you’ll see in baseball, pro or college. He’s just getting confident now and swinging it the way he’s capable of swinging.”
Carolina sophomore Adam Hill will get the start on Friday, and the Gamecocks will have options in the bullpen behind him.
Closer Tyler Johnson might not be available, but USC did not have to stretch its bullpen much each of the past two days.
Holbrook expects Josh Reagan, Reed Scott and, possibly, Colie Bowers to be ready to throw.