Matt Connolly

Chad Holbrook encouraging players to tune out negative comments

South Carolina is not living up to preseason expectations thus far as the Gamecocks have gone from being ranked in the top 5 to unranked by Baseball America.

That is understandably causing some fans to be disappointed, and several are voicing their displeasure.

USC coach Chad Holbrook is encouraging his players to tune out the negative comments while they try to bounce back from the current slump and start a winning streak.

“It’s difficult for the kids,” Holbrook said Monday on 107.5 The Game. “There’s people in our fan base very critical of a lot of folks, and I lead the charge there. I’m a guy, I can handle it. I’m paid to do it. These kids are trying awfully hard, and it’s a very difficult task to hit a baseball. No one’s more frustrated when they scuffle than they are.”

Holbrook added that he is trying to stay positive with his team throughout the difficult moments.

The Gamecocks have dropped three straight SEC series after opening SEC play 5-1. USC is tied for second in the SEC East at 8-7 entering Thursday’s series opener at Florida.

“You’ve just got to try to keep encouraging them,” Holbrook said. “They’re 18, 19, 20 years old and this is probably the first time in their life they’re under the microscope so to speak with huge amounts of pressure and expectations on them.”

Holbrook said it is particularly tough for players to tune out negative comments when they come in person during games.

“Some of our fans aren’t shy to voice their displeasure to them personally in our own park, and that makes it difficult for them,” Holbrook said. “You have to have tough skin. You have to believe in yourself. You have to let it go in one ear and out the other. It’s a lot easier for adults to let that happen than it is kids. These are our players that are wearing our uniform that invest a whole heck of a lot in becoming the best baseball player and the best baseball team they can be.”

While there have been plenty of negative comments, Holbrook is appreciative of the fans who have remained supportive during tough times so far this season.

“There’s a lot of people in those stands who are in their corner as well ... through the highs and through the lows. We just try to make sure they remember those folks. There’s a lot of great baseball fans we have in our stadium that understand how hard it is, that understand there are going to be ups and downs through the course of a baseball season, and we try to make sure our players understand there are some great people there,” Holbrook said. “Try to tune out the ones that are getting on you, keep working, keep your nose to the grindstone, keep working hard, staying late, coming early, and some of those balls will start falling into play for us and we’ll start getting some hits and get some momentum going.”

Holbrook is confident the season can be turned around. South Carolina hosts Davidson at 7 p.m. Tuesday before beginning a three-game series with Florida on Thursday.

USC hosts Kentucky, the first-place team in the SEC East, next weekend.

“They understand the expectations here at South Carolina. These kids are working extremely hard. They’re good kids. They’re tough kids. You have to be tough to play at South Carolina, and as our season unfolds I think you’ll see us become the team that all our fans wanted us to be,” Holbrook said. “I have a feeling that the good Lord has some neat things in store for this team. That’s just what I feel. I think you’ll see that come to pass as we play the next part of our season.”