South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said Sunday that about a dozen position players have earned playing time entering the season and he plans to give each of them opportunities early on in 2017.
Chris Cullen, Alex Destino, Madison Stokes, TJ Hopkins and Jonah Bride will likely be in the lineup when USC opens the season on Friday and most days throughout the year, but several spots remain up for grabs.
“I don’t think the lineup’s going to be very consistent the first four, five, six games. I’m going to play a few guys. There’s 11 or 12 that I think deserve some chances and some opportunities. I might platoon in a position or two here or there,” Holbrook said. “Once you get that opportunity, if you make the most of it you stay in there. If not we’ll just have to work hard as coaches to find the hot guy.”
One surprise player who has earned early playing time is transfer Jacob Olson.
The sophomore homered to left in Sunday’s scrimmage and has performed well at the plate throughout preseason workouts.
“Jacob’s put some good swings on it. He’s a very versatile guy. He gives our lineup flexibility. He gives our lineup athleticism. He gives our lineup an attitude,” Holbrook said. “He’s a presence in there. He believes he’s pretty good. His coach thinks he’s pretty good. Finding him the right spot to get him comfortable, that’s up to me. But he’s certainly going to factor in as we get our season underway.”
Close to 35
There are 42 players currently listed on South Carolina’s roster. That number must be trimmed to 35 before the Gamecocks open the season Friday against UNC Greensboro.
Holbrook is close to making his final decisions but will meet with several players before deciding.
“We’ve got some injury situations I have to deal with and talk to some guys. Sometimes there are young kids that may want to redshirt, and I’ve got to talk to all of those guys. Sometimes it’s not good to burn a year of eligibility for 10 to 15 at-bats or a couple of pinch running appearances,” Holbrook said. “We’ll try to do what’s best for our team and also what’s best for the kid’s future in regards to his career here.”
South Carolina closer Tyler Johnson topped out at 98 mph over the weekend, according to Holbrook. USC’s rotation is filled with pitchers that consistently throw in the 90s, including Johnson, Clarke Schmidt, Wil Crowe, Adam Hill, Sawyer Bridges and Cody Morris.
USC vs. UNC Greensboro
When: 4 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Founders Park, Columbia
Watch: SEC Network Plus (WatchESPN app)