USC Gamecocks Baseball

Inconsistent offense could lead to changes in Gamecocks’ lineup

Junior college transfer Justin Row could get more opportunities at the plate in the second half of the season.
Junior college transfer Justin Row could get more opportunities at the plate in the second half of the season. dmclemore@thestate.com

With South Carolina’s offense continuing to be inconsistent, a couple of players who were supposed to be key contributors could be replaced in the starting lineup.

Shortstop Madison Stokes’ batting average has dropped to .211, the lowest on the team. First baseman Matt Williams has gone from hitting more than .400 early this season to batting .270 entering this weekend’s series against Mississippi State.

Williams has one hit in his past 29 at bats (.034 average), while Stokes is in a 6-for-35 skid (.171 average).

“We’ve got to get some production somewhere. I like some of the at-bats that we’re having, but obviously Madison and Matt will be the first to tell you that they’ve got to play better,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said after Tuesday’s 20-5 loss to UNC.

“This isn’t little league. You’ve got to play better. They’ve done some decent things defensively and from time-to-time gotten a big hit, but you’ve got to be consistent. All options are on the table in regards to that because we’ve got some guys champing at the bit to play that maybe deserve an opportunity.”

Junior college transfer Justin Row and freshman first baseman Riley Hogan might get more playing time. Row would likely move to second base and LT Tolbert would move to shortstop if Stokes is benched, while Hogan is the most likely candidate to replace Williams.

Row is hitting .292 with a double, triple and four RBIs in 24 at-bats. Hogan is batting .227 with a double and two RBIs in 22 at-bats.

Outfielder Alex Destino is also struggling. His average has dropped to .268 and the junior leads the team with 29 strikeouts. Stokes is right behind him with 28.

GOOD TO BE BACK

One of the few bright spots for USC against the Tar Heels was junior closer Tyler Johnson returning to the mound.

The Virginia native pitched a perfect eighth inning with a strikeout in his first action since March 4. He had been sidelined with soreness in his forearm.

“It was a big personal mountain to climb. I can’t wait to build upon this outing and get back out there,” Johnson said. “It’s been a long road.”

TO BE CONTINUED?

Despite South Carolina losing to North Carolina by 15 runs each of the past two years, Holbrook would like to see the series continue in Charlotte.

Each game drew a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 fans, with last year’s game also being shown on national television.

“It’s a great environment,” Holbrook said. “It’s great for college baseball. I just wish our team and our program would play better in this game.”

AWARD WATCH

USC right-handed pitcher Clarke Schmidt (4-0, 1.15) is one of 40 players in the nation named to the midseason watch list for the USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur player in the country.

LATE TUESDAY

North Carolina

ab

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Miller cf

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Warmoth ss

3

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Jones ph-ss

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McGee dh

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Ladowski ph-dh

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Datres 3b

3

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Illies ph-1b

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Riley rf

3

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Pate ph-rf

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Gahagan 2b

4

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Freeman ph-2b

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Lynn lf

4

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Roberts c

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Martorano ph-c

0

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Busch 1b-2b

5

1

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3

TOTALS

37

20

14

19

10

9

South Carolina

ab

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Hopkins cf

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Blair ph-cf

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Bride 3b

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Cortes dh

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Cullen c

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Destino lf

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Stokes ss

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Row ph-2b

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Williams 1b

3

0

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Hogan ph-1b

1

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TOTALS

39

5

13

5

3

9

USC

021

010

010

5

UNC

420

601

70x

20

E — Tolbert(1); Riley(2). DP — NC 1. LOB — S. Carolina 11; NC 6. 2B — Hopkins(7); Bride(5); Cortes(3); Warmoth(10); McGee(4); Gahagan(5); Roberts(8). 3B — Miller(3); Datres(1). HR — Tolbert(3). HBP — Tolbert; Lynn; Roberts. SF — Riley(5). SB — Miller(15). CS — Lynn(2).

UNC

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Baum

2.0

5

2

2

1

1

Morgan, W (3-0)

4.0

0

0

0

1

0

Hutchinson Jr.

1.0

0

0

0

1

2

Daniels

1.0

2

1

1

1

0

Hiatt

1.0

0

0

0

1

1

USC

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Morris, L 2-1

 2/3

4

4

3

0

1

Lee

 2/3

2

2

2

0

0

Parke

2

2

2

2

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1

Lawson

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2

2

2

0

Scott

2 2/3

4

3

3

1

3

Bridges

 1/3

2

4

4

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1

Murray

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2

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2

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Haswell

 1/3

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1

1

3

1

Reagan

 1/3

0

0

0

0

1

Johnson

1

0

0

0

0

1

WP — Lee, Lawson, Haswell, Morgan. HBP — by Lee (Roberts), by Morgan (Tolbert), by Haswell (Lynn). Umpires — HP: Hank Himmanen 1B: David Savage 2B: Mark Chapman 3B: Danny Everett. T — 3:40. A — 10,049.

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