South Carolina concluded the Garnet & Black World Series on Sunday night with the Garnet squad winning the three-game series with a 7-3 victory in the decisive game.
Alex Destino broke a tie with a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning that proved to be the difference. Garnet won the opener 2-1, before the Black team came back with a 1-0 victory on Saturday.
The winning team will probably get a steak dinner, while the losing squad will probably have to settle for hot dogs from the convenience store.
“If I feed them a good meal, the head coach gets to eat that, too,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook joked. “We’ll all sit at the same table and the losing team will get their wieners from the 7-11 and the winning team will get steaks.”
Despite the number of runs scored on Sunday, pitching has been at the forefront for the Gamecocks. Clarke Schmidt and Wil Crowe are two of the top starters who will give South Carolina a formidable 1-2 punch in the weekend rotation.
Reed Scott, Josh Reagan, Adam Hill, and Colie Bowers also have looked good on the mound. Hill missed one weekend during the fall with a tired arm, but returned to pitch well the past couple of weekends.
“We had a good fall and the pitchers threw well for the most part. I think that’s what stood out as you look back on the fall,” Holbrook said. “We have a talented group of pitchers (and) a talented group of players, but we have to continue to improve as a group, so we can play at a high level come February.”
The re-emergence of Crowe has been a welcome sight for Holbrook. The junior right-hander missed the 2016 season after having Tommy John surgery, but has looked good this fall. His fastball has regained its velocity, while his curveball, slider and change-up are in top form.
“(Crowe) was 94-96 (mph) the other day and looked like a legitimate Friday night, first round guy,” Holbrook said. “But it’s still a process with Wil, but I think he’s back.”
Several position battles will carry into the spring. LT Tolbert and Madison Stokes are looking to replace Marcus Mooney at shortstop, and both have looked good at times in the fall. Whoever isn’t the everyday shortstop has a good chance to play second.
Danny Blair and TJ Hopkins split time in center field. Hopkins played some in right last year, so it’s possible both will be in the starting lineup in the spring.
Chris Cullen and John Jones will handle the bulk of the catching duties. Whichever is not behind the plate will probably DH. Matt Williams also had an outstanding fall.
“I thought Stokes had a great fall playing short and swinging the bat,” Holbrook said. “I thought TJ Hopkins made some strides. Chris Cullen was very impressive in the way he swung the bat. We still have a lot of things to work on as a group, and there was a lot of guys that had their moments. We have the making of a good team if we can play defense behind our pitching staff.”