Some random thoughts from the first weekend series at Carolina Stadium.
USC outfielder Adam Matthews showed just what a game-changer he can be Sunday in the win against Santa Clara.
Matthews has always been blessed with tremendous overall athletic ability – a rare combination of power and speed - but he hasn’t completely harnessed it in his first two seasons. The former White Knoll High standout made two plays in the sixth inning of a scoreless game that gave everyone a nice glimpse of that talent.
First, he threw out a runner at the plate from his spot in right field to preserve a scoreless tie and end the Broncos’ threat.
Never miss a local story.
Next, he led off the bottom of the inning and pushed a bunt down the first-base line that he beat out only because of his speed and a head-first slide. He went to third on Jackie Bradley’s single and scored the first run of the game on Christian Walker’s double.
USC went on to cruise to a 6-0 win.
Coach Ray Tanner knows what a full season of Matthews putting it all together could mean. He has entrusted his junior right fielder to hit second in the lineup and help ignite the offense in front of RBI men like Bradley, Walker and Adrian Morales.
If he gets on base enough this season, he can score a whole lot of runs.
(Last season’s leader in runs scored was Whit Merrifield with 72. The school record? Mike Curry scored an incredible 102 runs in 1998.)
Any questions for Michael Roth?
There’s nobody more entertaining in the interview room than Michael Roth. He’s smart, he’s funny, and he’s engaging. And he gives answers that you’re not going to hear from anybody else. The media types will get to talk to him more this season now that he’s the Friday night starter.
Last week after his win over Santa Clara, he spoke of how bored he was preparing for the game. The coaches wouldn’t let him take batting practice – he loves hitting more than pitching – and he found himself trying to get some homework done just to kill time.
A tremendous two-way player at Riverside back in his high school days, he would love to get as many plate appearances as innings pitched this season. It was a good weekend for the junior in that regard to start the season. After notching the Friday victory on the mound, he served as the DH Sunday and went 1-for-3, which included a single to center in his first at-bat of the season. He only got a combined 20 at-bats in his first two seasons.
I enjoyed watching transfer Peter Mooney play shortstop in his first game action as a Gamecock. He came from the JC ranks highly-decorated as a defender, and it’s easy to see why. He’s very smooth. He has excellent instincts. He can go get the ball either way. He has a fine arm. And he does it all without trying to be overly flashy. It should be fun watching him team with Scott Wingo up the middle this season.
Promising start for Westmoreland
The most positive sign of Adam Westmoreland’s return to the mound Sunday had to be a pitching line that showed just one walk in 5 2/3 innings, and that came on the last batter he faced on the day. The sophomore left-hander, who missed all of last season to Tommy John surgery, walked 32 batters in 46 2/3 innings in 2009. That’s an awful lot of extra base-runners to pitch around.
If he can continue to mix his pitches and come right at the hitters like he did against Santa Clara, he could be primed for a big season. It also should help immensely that he has dropped 30 pounds from his freshman season. The better physical shape should allow him to pitch deeper into games and take some stress off his arm.
A confident Morales
I’ve always appreciated the hard-nosed play of third baseman Adrian Morales. He starts this season by making an error early in the first game. He quickly bounces back by making a string of nice plays the rest of the weekend. You just can’t keep a guy like him down. He always has the confidence in himself to get the job done.
Jackie's worth the price of admission
Is anybody out there wondering if the $10 ticket price for a single game is worth it? Well, I’ve got two words for you: Jackie Bradley. Come see him while you can. You’ve got 30-some home games left before the junior center fielder starts his professional career.
Munson gets a shot
With Roth taking his left arm to the starting rotation, who’s going to be the situational lefty out of the bullpen this season? Sure looks like it’s going to be Logan Munson, the former A.C. Flora star who spent his first two collegiate seasons at North Carolina.
Former Gamecocks return
It was good to talk to Kyle Enders, Bobby Haney and Jeffery Jones before last Friday’s game. I ran into them by the mural and championship trophy case while they were taking in the sights and sounds of Opening Day like everyone else. They were all trying to get used to the idea of being Gamecock fans instead of being Gamecock players.
Enders got his accounting degree and is working for a local firm, while Jones is still looking for work as he goes between Columbia and his native Texas. Haney, of course, is getting ready to begin his first full season in the pro ranks after being drafted last summer. He reports to spring training next week. The former USC shortstop hopes to be playing nearby with an assignment to the Single-A Augusta GreenJackets, the South Atlantic League affiliate of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.