South Carolina’s 2015 baseball season was tough on everyone associated with the program, but perhaps no one had a more frustrating year than shortstop Marcus Mooney.
The Florida native was looking to build off of a strong sophomore campaign when he hit .274 with 10 doubles and had a .380 on-base percentage in his first season in Columbia. Instead, he hit .213 as a junior and watched helplessly from the dugout during a key stretch of the season after partially tearing his hamstring.
South Carolina was still battling for a spot in the NCAA tournament when Mooney was injured in mid April during a series against Vanderbilt. But the Gamecocks went 4-5 over the next nine games without Mooney and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.
“It’s one of the most frustrating things in the world,” Mooney said. “Not being able to do what you know you’re capable of doing because of an injury, or just not being out there at all, it’s frustrating.”
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Even when Mooney was in the lineup last season he said he didn’t feel right for most of the year. Being unable to run at full speed was a hindrance at the plate, and he worked hard over the summer to make sure he would be able to contribute more his final season.
“I went into the summer focusing on how to get on base more by walking and showing some patience at the plate,” Mooney said. “I improved on that and came back this fall and walked a lot more. That’s a good sign for me.”
Mooney he was again banged up this fall and hampered by a hamstring injury, but after rehabbing hard for several weeks he believes he is fully healthy.
“I feel 100 percent ready to go for Opening Day,” he said.
USC coach Chad Holbrook still has several lineup decisions to make for the season opener, but it’s a safe bet to say Mooney will be at shortstop.
“I like that Marcus Mooney is a senior and playing an important position at shortstop,” Holbrook said. “I feel very good about him. I trust him. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be in there every day, or I’m not going to move him around.”
Where Mooney bats in the lineup is to be determined, but he is very confident he can be a key offensive contributor .
“I’m a small guy. I can get on base. I can do whatever I need to,” he said. “I can bunt. I can hit guys over. I’d be comfortable batting leadoff, second or ninth.”
Mooney also wants to be a leader for the Gamecocks. He said what happened last season is unacceptable at South Carolina.
“Obviously we needed to change some things from last year, so from a leadership standpoint we’re going to make sure our guys are ready to go,” he said. “We’re all going to be ready to go Opening Day, playing with fire and intensity from Day 1 to whenever the last game is.”.
What: USC baseball scrimmages
When: Thursday, 3:45 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Founders Park
Admission: Free and open to the public