South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook was asked following Saturday’s loss to LSU if he believes his future leading the Gamecocks’ program hinges on USC making the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks are 35-25 entering Monday’s selection show, including a 16-19 mark against SEC teams. USC finished the regular season 32-23 (13-17).
Holbrook didn’t take a strong stance if he expects to be in charge of USC’s program moving forward if the Gamecocks don’t make the NCAA Tournament.
“That’s not for me to decide. That’s not for me to discuss,” the fifth-year coach said. “I’ve been lucky to be the head baseball coach at South Carolina and I stand by our success here. I certainly welcome the opportunity to coach the Gamecocks. But that’s not my decision. That’s for others to decide.”
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USC was thought to be on the outside looking in at the NCAAs before making a run to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament this week.
South Carolina has an RPI of 31 and the No. 5 strength of schedule nationally after the loss to the Tigers.
LSU coach backs USC
LSU coach Paul Mainieri doesn’t get to decide if South Carolina makes the NCAA Tournament, but he made his opinion clear following his team’s 11-0 win over USC.
Mainieri said USC should be in the field when the bracket is released.
The Tigers won two of three games against USC during the regular season before topping the Gamecocks in an SEC Tournament semifinal game.
“South Carolina has an excellent team. They had a terrible injury that happened to them when they lost (top starting pitcher Clarke) Schmidt. It happened late in the year, but it impacted probably the last four weeks of their season. If they’d have won two or three of those games then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion,” Mainieri said.
One argument against the Gamecocks is that they lost eight consecutive series to close the season, but Mainieri believes that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“I’m a little disappointed every time that I hear they’ve lost eight consecutive series. To win one game in Gainesville, or to win one game in Baton Rouge when you’re on the road, this league is so difficult,” he said. “We won one game in Lexington. We won one game in Gainesville. I was happy we got one win in those places. They’re tough places. It’s a lot easier to get swept in this league than it is to sweep a series. Believe me. And South Carolina never got swept the whole year. And they’ve played the best teams in the country.”
Mainieri said he was impressed with South Carolina’s run in the SEC Tournament and believes the Gamecocks could go on a similar run in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’d ask teams around the country, ‘How many of you would like to have South Carolina in your regional?’ I bet you not too many people would raise their hands knowing that you’re going to be facing (Wil) Crowe and (Adam) Hill and Tyler Johnson coming out of the bullpen. And (Josh) Reagan coming out of the bullpen. And have to get (Carlos) Cortes out,” he said. “Personally, I think they deserve it. They play in the toughest league top to bottom in the country. I know it’s a bubble team, but I think they’ve overcome a lot of obstacles and I think they deserve it.”
South Carolina struggled to win close games throughout the regular season, going 3-14 in SEC games decided by three runs or less the final eight weeks of the year.
But the Gamecocks had no such issues this week in Hoover, going 2-0 with a 7-4 win in 11 innings to open the SEC Tournament on Tuesday and a 3-1 win over No. 10 Kentucky on Friday.
Holbrook believes his team played better this week partly because it was in a better mindset.
“I think they were a lot more relaxed down here for some reason,” he said. “They weren’t as anxious. They weren’t as uptight. … I think they just took a deep breath and played ball.”
The Gamecocks hadn’t won back-to-back SEC games since March before doing so twice in a week.
USC ended the regular season with a win over Georgia last Saturday and opened the SEC tourney with a win over Vandy. After losing to Kentucky the Gamecocks bounced back to beat Missouri and the Wildcats back-to-back to reach the semifinals.