By NEIL WHITE
The Gamecocks are going to bat .500 on getting two of their key injured players back this weekend against Missouri in the season’s first SEC series.
USC coach Chad Holbrook expects sophomore center fielder Tanner English, whose shoulder injury has sidelined him for the past five games, to return against the Tigers. Holbrook was less optimistic about a quick return for sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who hasn’t pitched since March 2 after suffering a lower distal humerus stress reaction in his throwing arm.
“Tanner’s getting better. He swung the bat (Wednesday) for the first time since his injury,” Holbrook said after the 12-4 win over Davidson. “I don’t think he’s going to be in the starting lineup, but if he has a great workout (Thursday) when we get to Missouri, I could change my mind on that.”
The Gamecocks could use English’s defense in center as well as his speed in the lineup. He’s batting .324 with a .500 on-base percentage in 12 games.
“He’ll help us in some capacity this weekend, whether it’s starting or defensive replacement or pinch-runner,” Holbrook said. “He has come a long way in the last 48 hours.”
Montgomery, the staff ace with a 3-0 mark and 0.95 ERA, missed last weekend’s series against Rider. He will not throw against Missouri and Arkansas the next two weekends and remains doubtful for the Texas A&M series that starts March 28.
“We’ll get an update in the middle of next week,” Holbrook said. “I think he’s feeling better. The physical test they’re putting him through, he’s having a lot less pain and symptoms than he had when the injury occurred. So that’s good news.”