USC Gamecocks Baseball

Super soaker: USC-UNC opener postponed until Saturday

South Carolina's Sean Sullivan heads back to the team bus after batting practice at Boshamer Stadium. Friday's super regional game against North Carolina was postponed due to inclement weather.
South Carolina's Sean Sullivan heads back to the team bus after batting practice at Boshamer Stadium. Friday's super regional game against North Carolina was postponed due to inclement weather. gmelendez@thestate.com

The postponement of the start of South Carolina’s NCAA Super Regional against North Carolina from Friday to Saturday due to rainy weather did not faze USC coach Chad Holbrook one bit.

The way he looked at it, the optimal start day was Saturday all along.

“After we got through Liberty (in the NCAA regional) Monday afternoon, I was hoping our first game would be Saturday,” Holbrook said. “Playing on Saturday is not a really big deal. They (UNC) finished late (against Florida Atlantic in their regional) on Monday. I thought it was right for us to start Saturday anyway.”

Although both teams were prepared to get the full schedule of eight Super Regionals underway Friday afternoon, it became apparent that heavy rains from Tropical Storm Andrea were not going to allow a game to be played at Boshamer Stadium. The NCAA and the athletic administrations decided Friday morning to push the start back to Saturday at 12:05 p.m. (ESPN).

“It’s too wet, the forecast is too grim, and the playing conditions are too tough,” Holbrook said at USC’s practice Friday at the Boshamer Stadium indoor facilities. “This time of year the games are so important that you hate to have a game dictated by playing field conditions. We’ll give it a day to dry, and hopefully it’ll dry out some tonight. It’ll be a lot more fun to play (Saturday) with a dry field and dry conditions for both teams.”

The players had no issue with the change in schedule either.

“We’re out here having fun getting our work in. Another day of rest never really hurts anybody,” USC shortstop Joey Pankake said. “Everybody wants it to be 80 (degrees) and sunny at a time like this. Nobody really wants to play in the rain, but if we have to, we’ll strap it on and go ahead.”

Holbrook will stay with his rotation of left-handers Nolan Belcher and Jordan Montgomery for the first two games. UNC coach Mike Fox will switch his rotation up slightly by keeping left-hander Kent Manuel, who was drafted in the third round Friday by the Houston Astros, in the Saturday slot, which means he’ll pitch the first game instead of the second. That will shift left-hander Hobbs Johnson from Friday to Sunday.

“(Emanuel) was going to pitch one of the first two games anyway, and Nolan and Jordan were going to pitch the first two games no matter what,” Holbrook said. “One more day of rest for us, and they get another day as well.”

Belcher didn’t mind that his start was delayed.

“It doesn’t affect me. It’s just another day. I wish we could play today, but it has no effect on me,” he said.

Belcher prefers drier conditions, but he was psyched about the first Super Regional start of his career no matter what.

“If we had to play in the mist, that would be fine with me, too,” he said. “I just want to get out there and get it started.”

Holbrook wanted to get a full batting practice and some infield work done on the actual playing field before facing live action. So he was happy with the postponement. But he joked the players would need to find something to do after the Friday workout before an early curfew.

“They’ll probably go to the mall and see if they can find a date or something for tonight,” he said.

Pankake added the players have plenty of ways to pass the down time.

“A few people brought their PlayStations,” he said. “We can play some cards. I bought an indoor helicopter, and I’ve been destroying some stuff with that. We’ve been keeping ourselves entertained.”

Holbrook, though, can’t wait for the business at hand to get underway.

“Hopefully, we can start focusing on the real reason why we’re here. That’s the Tar Heels and the Gamecocks,” he said. “It should be a lot of fun with a lot of emotion and passion involved. I hope we can play well.”

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