USC senior first baseman LB Dantzler, who dislocated his left shoulder while running the bases in Wednesday’s win over Wofford, appears to be on track to play in the Georgia series this weekend.
Dantzler, who leads the offense with a .343 average, 12 homers and 44 RBIs, received treatment Thursday and will get more Friday morning. If he can get cleared medically, Dantzler plans to play, even if there’s pain.
“I’m going to do everything I can to be there,” he said.
USC coach Chad Holbrook knows how important it is to have Dantzler in the cleanup spot for the SEC stretch run, but he’s not sure if his team captain will play first base, serve as designated hitter, only be available to pinch-hit, or merely cheer on his teammates.
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“I’m a little bit more optimistic about him playing this weekend than I was (Wednesday night),” Holbrook said.
“That being said, in what role or what capacity, I do not know yet. We’ll know more about LB’s availability (Friday afternoon). The door is certainly not closed.”
Junior Erik Payne has left the team after getting 27 at-bats in 48 games. Payne, who played the infield and outfield, began the season as the starting designated hitter, but he was removed from the regular lineup after a slow start.
He played in 13 games, eight of them as a starter, and batted .185 with four RBIs. A Richmond, Va., native, he is expected to transfer to Virginia Tech, where he would have to sit out a season.
“Erik Payne’s a great kid. He was a great member of our program. Erik just wanted to play. He never caused us any trouble. He was a great student,” Holbrook said. “We wish him the best. He’ll always in our mind be a member of our program and a Gamecock.”
Last season was Payne’s most productive, as he hit .265 with three homers and 19 RBIs, including a bases-loaded triple in a 7-3 win over Florida in USC’s College World Series opening win. He also won the NCAA Elite 89 award, given to the player with the highest GPA among the eight teams at the CWS.
Senior Day will be held before Saturday’s game in a 12:40 p.m. ceremony. The senior class consists of Dantzler, pitchers Nolan Belcher, Patrick Sullivan, Tyler Webb, Adam Westmoreland and Colby Holmes, catcher Dante Rosenberg, third baseman Chase Vergason and outfielder Sean Sullivan.
“We hope to send them out on a winning note,” Holbrook said.
Not so fast
Holbrook has news for anyone expecting a series romp over the Bulldogs, who have struggled to a 5-16 SEC record.
“They’ve got some veteran players and some guys who have been through the wars of the SEC,” he said. “We know that we’re not the type of team that can just show up and win a series or win a game. We have to play the way we’re capable of playing to win an SEC series.”
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Carolina Stadium
RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5
TV: Friday, SportSouth; Saturday, CSS; Sunday, SportSouth
SERIES: USC leads 58-49
LAST MEETING: The teams split two games last season
RECORDS: USC 34-14, 13-10 SEC; Georgia 18-28, 5-16
RANKINGS: USC is No. 15 in the Baseball America Top 25
PITCHING MATCHUPS: Friday, USC LHP Nolan Belcher, Sr., 6-5, 2.21 vs. Georgia RHP Sean McLaughlin, Fr., 4-5, 3.14; Saturday, USC LHP Jordan Montgomery, Soph., 3-1, 1.96 vs. Georgia LHP Blake Dieterich, Sr., 2-2, 2.59; Sunday, USC TBA vs. Georgia LHP Jared Walsh, Soph., 2-3, 2.05
NOTES: USC has 43 homers and 45 stolen bases, while Georgia has 25 homers and 23 stolen bases. The Bulldogs have had three SEC games cancelled due to rain — one against Arkansas and two against Tennessee — over the past two weekends. The Gamecocks have defeated Georgia nine times in 12 meetings over the past four seasons. USC has allowed five runs or fewer in 39 of its 48 games this season, going 30-9.