South Carolina junior center fielder Jackie Bradley could be sidelined until the end of the regular season with a tendon injury in his left wrist.
USC coach Ray Tanner had real concerns after Bradley, who injured the wrist trying to make a diving catch in Saturday night’s game against Mississippi State, had an MRI done Monday morning.
“It may be a situation where surgery is required. It may not be,” Tanner said. “Regardless, it’s going to be an indefinite period. You’d like to be optimistic that he’ll be back toward the end of the season, but you just don’t know right now. We have to prepare that he won’t be available the rest of the regular season."
Bradley, the MVP of the College World Series last season, has struggled recently after a hot start at the plate this season. He has just five hits in his last 38 at-bats as his average has fallen to .259 on the season, nearly 100 points below his .358 average over his first two seasons. With six home runs and 26 RBIs, he has only three RBIs over his last 12 games and has not hit a homer since March 23 against Rhode Island.
But Bradley continued to play stellar defense and provide solid leadership for the No. 2 team in the nation. Tanner said Bradley is handling his injury situation well.
“I was really excited (Sunday) by his attitude in the dugout,” Tanner said. “He was very much involved in the game and encouraging the guys who were in the lineup. It’s certainly not an easy thing.”
The Gamecocks (31-8), who play Liberty at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Carolina Stadium, also were missing sophomore left fielder Evan Marzilli in Sunday’s game. Marzilli, who is hitting .257 with two homers and 17 RBIs, has a medical condition that USC is keeping undisclosed for privacy reasons. He was evaluated by USC physicians Monday morning and will see a specialist Tuesday for further evaluation.
Marzilli will not play against Liberty, and his status for the weekend against Auburn is undetermined.
“I’m optimistic on his situation. It’s a personal optimism. It’s not anything I’ve been given,” Tanner said. “But I think he could miss as many as four games. Maybe we’ll get him back sooner. But we’re encouraged that we’ll get him back within a week.”
Those two outfielders being out came on the heels of junior right fielder Adam Matthews severely straining his hamstring against Vanderbilt the previous weekend, an injury that’s expected to keep him out of the lineup at least through the end of the regular season.
Despite a makeshift lineup that had Jake Williams, who recently returned from a suspension, Steven Neff and DeSean Anderson, the Gamecocks won 13-4 thanks to an 18-hit attack Sunday against the Bulldogs to claim the series. Neff, who has been a pitcher-only for his career, and Anderson, a freshman who endured his own suspension earlier this season, have a combined 18 at-bats on the season, with nine of them coming Sunday. Anderson had three hits, two doubles, and Williams had four hits and two RBIs in the win.
Tanner could not have been more pleased by his team’s reaction to its entire starting outfield being out.
“I’ve been coaching for a while and I’ve been involved in a lot of games,” Tanner said. “I told our players that we’ve had some great wins in the program, and to be able to win Sunday with the adversity we were facing, that ranks as one of the best wins I’ve ever been a part of, just because of the scenario. I was really proud of our players for their approach and their desire to win the game.”
The season has been an eventful one. Before it started, the team lost three pitchers: Wes Cook flunked out, Ethan Carter was kicked off the team, and Nolan Belcher had arm surgery. Since the season began, backup catcher Dante Rosenberg has been sidelined by back issues and outfielder Patrick Harrington is taking a medical redshirt due to injuries. Throw in the struggles of several pitchers, the injuries in the outfield, and a couple of suspensions for off-the-field reasons, and the year hasn’t gone as planned – except for the winning.
“All teams have injuries and have things happen, and certainly we’re no different. We might have had a deeper rash of injuries than a lot of teams but you’ve got to find a way to win,” Tanner said. “Are you challenged? Absolutely, the obstacles are great. But you have to approach it the same way, and our guys did that. It’s still going to be difficult for us. But I have great faith and trust in the leadership of this team.”
In the meantime, Tanner looks forward to the day that Bradley and Matthews return, hopefully for another NCAA tournament run. But he’s not even taking that for granted, despite the first-place 14-4 SEC record.
“I’m just concentrating on winning against Liberty. We’re going to battle and find a way to win games,” he said. “That’s really the only thing I can do. I don’t worry about the future or the past. Let’s try to live in the present and find a way to get it done today.”