Chad Holbrook isn’t going to sweat too much about USC’s chances to host an NCAA regional when the sites are announced Sunday night.
He figures the Gamecocks (39-18) have done enough good things over the course of the season to merit strong consideration. They entered the SEC tournament with a No. 11 RPI, a key component for the selection committee, as well as a fourth-place finish in the powerful SEC’s regular season.
Their two SEC tournament losses came to teams rated higher in the RPI in Mississippi State (No. 10) and Vanderbilt (No. 1), which means the Gamecocks — despite losing four of the past five games to those teams — should not fall much.
“I feel decent about it,” Holbrook said. “You would think we would have a chance to host. If not, we’ll go somewhere and play. I’m more worried about us playing better than I am hosting a regional.”
He looks back to the last time USC went two-and-out in the SEC tournament in 2010, when the Gamecocks went on to capture their first national championship.
“At least what happened in 2010 gives us confidence that what happens in this tournament doesn’t necessarily dictate what’s going to happen next week,” Holbrook said. “We’re five one-game winning streaks from the College World Series. Everything’s in front of us. But we’ve got to play better as well.”
Sophomore catcher Grayson Greiner knows that’s the answer, too.
“We have to flush what happened the past two weekends and get ready for the regional,” Greiner said. “I’m sure we’re going to face, from here on out, very good teams. We’ve got to figure out what to do to win these close games against quality competition.”
The full 64-team NCAA field will be announced Monday afternoon.
Second baseman Max Schrock collided with a base runner for the second time this season when he was knocked over by Vanderbilt’s Connor Harrell during Thursday’s game-winning hit by Conrad Gregor in the 10th inning.
Schrock suffered a concussion and will be monitored over the next week as he gets ready for the NCAA tournament. He’ll probably be out until the games start.
“It’s a concern,” Holbrook said. “He took a good shot. We’ll get him home and get him rested. Hopefully, he’ll start feeling better.”
Schrock suffered a neck injury in a collision against The Citadel earlier this season that caused him to miss one game.
Holbrook benched right-fielder Connor Bright to play senior Sean Sullivan against Vanderbilt. And he pulled left-fielder Graham Saiko, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, for T.J. Costen in the fifth inning.
“I put Sean in there because he’s the heart and soul of our team. If I was going to lose today, I was going to lose with someone who gives us everything he’s got every single day whether he’s in the lineup or not,” Holbrook said. “I put T.J. in there because Graham hadn’t been playing well. Graham and Connor haven’t been playing well. When you don’t play well over a considerable period of time, other guys deserve a chance.”
Holbrook said those four will battle in practice this week for the right to start in the corner spots when NCAA play begins.
Senior left-hander Tyler Webb gave up the game-winning hits in both losses in the SEC tournament and also struggled in a loss last weekend against Mississippi State. After being close to perfect all season, he has not always looked in top form over his seven appearances in the past 14 days.
“It’s a little bump in the road for Tyler,” Holbrook said. “But he’s our closer. And if we’re up two runs or one run next Friday, we’re going to Tyler Webb. He’s been our guy.”