South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner told Phil Kornblut of SportsTalk on Tuesday that he is confident in the Gamecocks’ baseball program as well as head coach Chad Holbrook.
USC entered Tuesday’s game with Davidson with a 22-13 record, including an 8-7 mark in SEC play. South Carolina travels to Florida for a critical three-game series beginning Thursday.
“I believe strongly in what he’s doing, how he’s recruiting, and I think we’re poised to be a pretty good team in the second half,” Tanner told Kornblut.
Tanner added that he believes USC will be better the second half of the conference season now that the team is close to healthy for the first time.
The Gamecocks were without closer Tyler Johnson for more than a month and lost three games with a lead and two outs in the ninth inning during his absence.
South Carolina catcher Chris Cullen and outfielder TJ Hopkins have also been in and out of the lineup with injuries.
Hopkins reaggravated his quad injury last weekend against Mississippi State, but the hope is he will be available against the Gators.
“You’re looking at the midway point of conference play, you’re 8-7. ... You’re going to get your team on the field it looks like healthy for the first time all at one point,” Tanner said. “The expectations that we have are very special, and I always talked about embracing those. It’s not about the pressure. It’s not about people unhappy with baseball. It’s about the expectation. That’s a compliment. Sometimes it gets turned inside out, but I think we’re in a good place. We certainly would have liked to win a few more games, and Coach Holbrook would be the first to tell you. But he’d have also liked to have Tyler Johnson at the end of those games as well as I would. There’s a lot of baseball to be played, but we’re in a pretty good position.”
USC’s five remaining series are at Florida, home vs. Kentucky, at LSU, at Missouri and home vs. Georgia.
South Carolina’s pitching staff has an ERA of 3.17, good for second in the league. In SEC games USC’s staff has an ERA of 2.77, which is the best in the conference.
“I know if we can do what we need to do down the stretch we’re not a team that people would look forward to seeing in the postseason with the depth of our pitching staff,” Tanner said. “There’s been a few games there that I know he’d like to have back, but that’s part of it. I believe in Coach Holbrook. I believe in this program. He’s got some very talented players out there. I think it’s safe to say that they haven’t hit their best stride yet, and let’s hope that comes down the back stretch.”