The versatility of the South Carolina baseball roster means several position battles might be in store for the Gamecocks this season.
Coach Chad Holbrook is planning to place players in positions they might not be used to and will make adjustments as the season progresses.
“It is new for us because the faces are new,” Holbrook said at a news conference Thursday. “I’ve got some athletic guys that I want to move around to get in the lineup from time to time that may not be able to play the position they want to play or necessarily think they’re going to play.”
One of the main questions Holbrook faces is who will replace Marcus Mooney as the starting shortstop. Sophomore LT Tolbert and junior Madison Stokes are in the conversation. Last season, Tolbert and Stokes primarily played at first base with Stokes getting some experience at second.
Junior Alex Destino, who played at first base at the beginning of last season, will continue in left field or designated hitter. Destino batted at .321 (75-for-234) with a team-high 10 homers as a sophomore, but struggled making defensive plays at first.
“After sifting through it, I just want him to be comfortable so he can focus all of his attention on swinging the bat,” Holbrook said. “I think I would put too many burdens on Alex if I put him over at first.”
Holbrook said he doesn’t know who will take over at first, but a platoon could be an option, including Stokes, catcher Chris Cullen and some new members of the team.
Other players who can play multiple positions include Matt Williams, Jacob Olsen and Riley Hogan, Holbrook said.
Clarke Schmidt, Wil Crowe and Adam Hill are projected to be the starting pitchers.
“The good thing is I don’t have to search far to find (an opening day starter),” Holbrook said. “With the experience of Wil and Clark, one of those two will probably throw on the Friday of opening day. It’s going to be a tough call.”
Catchers John Jones and Cullen needed minor surgeries on their knees this fall. Holbrook expects both to be fully mended by January.
Other fall injuries include: SS Justin Row (knee); C Hunter Taylor (pulled hamstring); 1B Riley Hogan (hamate fracture); RHP Tyler Haswell (separated shoulder).
Chad Holbrook will host the 10th annual Reece Holbrook Win Anyway sports auction at the USC Alumni Center at 6 p.m. Nov. 13. ... The Gamecocks open the season Feb. 17-19 at Founders Park against UNC Greensboro. A full season schedule is due out any time.