USC sophomore center fielder Tanner English’s trademark tool is his speed. Sunday afternoon in an 8-0 win over North Carolina in the NCAA Super Regional, he showed it off in a big way.
He beat out a squeeze bunt and stole second base in the second inning. He beat out an infield chopper in the fifth inning and stole second and third base. And he made a long running, diving catch in the ninth that no other USC outfielder could have tracked down.
“He can really, really run,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “You don’t see too many kids who can run like that and get down the line from the right side.”
After the three stolen bases on the day, USC coach Chad Holbrook knows it may finally be time to give English, who only has nine stolen bases on the year, the green light to steal, something he has been hesitant to do because of his young player’s tightness on the base paths at times.
“He’s one of the fastest kids I’ve ever coached,” Holbrook said.
For his part, English tries to use his speed to his advantage, especially on defense, where he has a knack for running down fly balls like the one in the ninth.
“When that ball was hit, I put my head down and ran,” English said. “I looked back up and saw that I had a chance to get it. It went in my glove. That’s all I remember.”
Freshman second baseman Max Schrock has played very well defensively all season, making just six errors coming into the Super Regional. But he has struggled this weekend, making three errors in the two games and bobbling a few other balls before recovering to get an out.
Holbrook said it may be time for Schrock to get professional help from team psychologist Ronald Kasper.
“He’s tight as a banjo string right now for some reason. I’m going to have to put Doc Kasper in a little room here with him,” Holbrook said. “He’s our sports psychologist, and he’s got to earn his keep in some way, shape or form. Today might be a good day for Doc. He’s done nothing but steal meal money.”
Shortstop Joey Pankake has already offered his advice to his double-play mate.
“I told him I’ve had a lot of games like that,” Pankake said. “I told that’s part of the game, and you’ve got to bounce back. I’ve dome it my whole career. You’ve just got to keep bouncing back and make the next play.”
Ready to pitch
Both coaches like their team’s pitching choices for the decisive game Monday. The Gamecocks will start freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop (7-3, 2.92 ERA), while the Tar Heels will counter with sophomore right-hander Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78 ERA).
More importantly, after Sunday’s blowout, when USC got a complete game and UNC didn’t burn any of its top relievers, both teams will have rested bullpens.
Holbrook likes having senior left-handers Tyler Webb and Adam Westmoreland available.
“You feel good about having two seniors that should be fresh and ready to go,” he said. “Obviously, we’ll be quick to give them the ball.”
Fox can counter with right-handers Trent Thornton, Chris McCue and Chris Munnelly, who stopped the Gamecocks in the first game.
“It’s better we lost this way,” Fox said. “They got the same thing. We’re probably both in a similar situation in terms of relievers.”
Chad Holbrook postgame
USC players postgame