USC baseball coach Ray Tanner left open a door that suspended outfielder Jake Williams could get his suspension lifted in time for this weekend’s home series against No. 1 Vanderbilt.
“If it gets lifted, it’ll be lifted before tomorrow’s game,” Tanner said at his Thursday media session. “You have to designate a (27-man) roster prior to the umpires’ meeting on Friday. He’s unlikely, but there are a couple of variables that could make it possible for him to play.”
Tanner did not elaborate on those variables. When asked if he would be the one making the decision, he said, “Not necessarily.”
And when he was questioned if that decision was being made higher up the food chain, he smiled.
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“Everybody’s higher than me. I’m five-foot-nothing,” he said.
Williams’ indefinite suspension was announced before Tuesday night’s loss to The Citadel in Charleston. The suspension came on the heels of Williams being cited last Saturday night by Cayce police for providing alcohol to two underage people.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Williams, a Greer native and Wofford transfer, is hitting .286 with two homers and 18 RBIs on the season while starting six games in left field and 19 at designated hitter. Tanner isn’t going to let Williams being out of the lineup serve as an excuse against the Commodores.
“The Jake Williams situation was a distraction, but it’s not going to be a reason that we do poorly or anything like that,” Tanner said. “We’re going to go out, be ready to play, and do the best we can.”
Plugging the gap
With Williams out, Tanner said he might send No. 9 to the outfield this weekend. That’s left-handed pitcher Steven Neff, who was a terrific hitter at Lancaster High as well as in summer collegiate league play.
Neff took a round of batting practice this week and began to round back into form. Tanner also noted that he’s very athletic in the outfield.
“If you happen to see him run out there, it won’t be a complete shock,” Tanner said.
Ain’t no mountain high enough
USC is playing its second top-ranked team this season. The Gamecocks went to Gainesville, Fla., three weeks ago and defeated the then-No. 1 Gators two-of-three in that series. As the defending national champions, the Gamecocks aren’t backing down from any challenge.
“With our cast of characters, our players, we don’t fear anyone. We respect everyone, but we don’t fear anyone,” Tanner said. “They have fun with it, and that’s the good thing about having some older players. It’s not going to be a David and Goliath. Our guys think they should win.”
Tanner decided after last weekend’s Tennessee series that senior third baseman Adrian Morales needed to rest his sore left wrist, which had been nagging him. So they jointly decided that he would sit out Tuesday’s game against The Citadel. But when the bus pulled up to Riley Park in Charleston, Tanner noticed he had a text message.
It was from Morales, asking to be placed in the starting lineup.
Tanner declined. And then he continued to ignore entreaties from Morales to enter the game as it progressed, which saw the Gamecocks eventually lose 2-0. Morales called his coach out at Wednesday’s practice for not playing him.
“I told him that I cared about him in the long run,” Tanner said.
They can relate
Vanderbilt outfielder Mike Yastrzemski (.303, 19 RBIs) is the grandson of Hall of Fame outfielder Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox. Pitcher Jack Armstrong (1.12 ERA) is the son of his namesake, who pitched for four MLB teams, most notably the Reds.
“It comes down to teams that make the fewest mistakes. When you play this South Carolina team, you have to legitimately beat them and earn it because they’re not going to give you anything.” – Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin
Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Walker and Adrian Morales