What a week for Forrest Koumas.
First the freshman right-hander gets a spot start against then-No. 1 Florida last Saturday in place of an injured Steven Neff and throws the ball very well. He allowed only two hits and one unearned run in six innings, which was good enough to earn another start this weekend.
But then he eats the wrong thing Monday night and ends up in the hospital for three days with a bad reaction related to his peanut allergy, which has cast some doubt on whether he’ll be strong enough to make a start against Kentucky. He spoke to the media Thursday and insisted he feels fine. Koumas, who was a standout at nearby Lugoff-Elgin High School in football and baseball, definitely wants to get the ball Sunday in the finale of the three-game series.
He’s a tough, strong kid, and it’s a credit to him that he’s not going to let this misfortune stand in his way. It was a total fluke that he got sick. First diagnosed at age four with this allergy, he hasn’t had a bad incident since he was 12. But he knew right away that he was in trouble Monday night, when he happened to sample a friend’s homemade dish that had peanut oil in it. He quickly took some Benadryl, had teammate Drake Thomason drive him straight to the hospital, and called his father to meet them there. He was fine when he first arrived, thanks to the Benadryl, but soon after that, his throat started to close up and he had difficulty breathing, which necessitated a three-night stay for both medical care and extended observation.
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Fortunately, Koumas was cognizant enough of his condition to know that he needed to get to a hospital quickly, which kept things from being much worse. USC coach Ray Tanner, who was already impressed by his young pitcher’s talent and toughness on the mound, was relieved that Koumas is going to be fine. He also appears to be recovering in time to help an already-depleted USC staff this weekend against the Wildcats.
With his 2-0 record, 2.79 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings, don’t be surprised to see him throwing -- and throwing well -- Sunday.
COME ON, GET HAPPY
Wednesday night’s game against The Citadel showed the respect Tanner has for Fred Jordan, the coach of the Bulldogs. In the fifth inning of a tight ballgame, center fielder Jackie Bradley, who had struck out in his first two at-bats, appeared to demonstrably show his displeasure with The Citadel dugout -- perhaps in response to chatter from players or fans -- when he walked with the bases loaded to bring home USC’s first run. That display brought Jordan to the top of the dugout.
And when Bradley crossed the plate on Christian Walker’s three-run double to tie the game, he again seemed to send a signal with his body language that he was still upset with the Bulldogs. The Gamecocks went on to win the game, but Bradley avoided any discussion of the incident in the media room after the game. He also had an upset look on his face as if to say that he had heard about his actions from the coaches. For his part, Tanner not only brushed aside the incident, he disavowed any knowledge of it.
Here’s my take. Tanner and Jordan are good friends, and their teams have a healthy, long-standing rivalry. They clearly want to avoid any signs of lingering animosity or hard feelings and nipped it in the bud. Good for them.
WHERE’S WHIT’S HIT?
Former outfielder Whit Merrifield, who’s now playing in the Kansas City Royals organization, has started a campaign to get back the ball he drilled into right field at Rosenblatt Stadium for the hit that won the College World Series last June.
As the Gamecocks celebrated the big moment in the infield, the ball was retrieved at the time by UCLA right fielder Brett Krill, who’s now playing in the San Francisco Giants organization. It seems he still has it and has rebuffed Merrifield’s requests to discuss turning it over. Merrifield indicated on his Twitter account that Krill wanted $50,000 for the ball when former USC shortstop Bobby Haney, who’s also in the Giants organization, discussed the matter with Krill.
Last summer UCLA officials indicated they thought Krill would be giving the ball to the collegiate Hall of Fame. But that hasn’t happened. Discussions may ensue between the schools, but ultimately this one will come down to Krill. The ball clearly has meaning to Merrifield, and he would like to see it in USC’s possession for posterity’s sake.
Let’s hope people don’t get too worked up over this issue, however. There’s no need to beg or pressure Krill for the ball. Memories are always worth more than memorabilia, and the Gamecocks possess the artifact that matters most -- the national championship trophy.