When the South Carolina baseball team’s series at LSU was tied at one game each in April, coach Chad Holbrook sent freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop to the mound.
He responded with seven shutout innings in a 4-0 win to clinch the series against the Tigers, who have already qualified for the College World Series. Holbrook would love for Wynkoop (7-3, 2.92 ERA) to do the same when the Gamecocks (43-19) face North Carolina (56-10) in the NCAA Super Regional game that decides which team will advance to the CWS.
“I hope the LSU experience will help him and give him some confidence and the belief that he can do it against a really, really good team,” Holbrook said. “He’ll need some confidence against these guys, and he’ll need to get off to a good start. That will be paramount for him. He’s going to need to be very efficient right out of the gate.”
The Gamecocks will face UNC sophomore right-hander Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78 ERA), a pitcher who has the ability to give opponents fits with his curve ball.
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“We’ve got to be extremely disciplined against him. We’ve got to make sure we’re swinging at our pitches. We’ve got to lay off those pitches out of the strike zone,” Holbrook said. “He can get you to chase the breaking ball if you don’t have a good plate approach against him. If we’re swing at that thing and it’s not a strike, it’s going to be a long day. He’ll punch a lot of people out.”
Lining it up
Holbrook expects to keep LB Danztler at designated hitter and Kyle Martin at first base Tuesday as he has done for all the NCAA tournament games. He has liked the way Martin has performed defensively and swung the bat. Martin’s hitting .450 with a homer and six RBIs in those five games.
“He’s doing exactly what we’ve asked him to do, and he’s played well,” Holbrook said of the sophomore. “I’m excited about Kyle not only tomorrow but going forward. I’m excited about Kyle’s future, too.”
After playing Connor Bright in the first game of the Super Regional in right field and T.J. Costen there in the second game, Holbrook may go back to Bright for the third. Neither player got a hit in their starts, while Bright made a key error in Saturday’s loss.
But Bright has a much better batting average against right-handed pitchers than Costen.
“We might just play the numbers tomorrow. Connor has done some really good things for us over the course of the year,” Holbrook said. “He’s gone through a little bit of a down time, but I still think he’s got a really big hit in him. I like his makeup, I like his demeanor.”
Don’t expect to see senior left-hander Nolan Belcher, who started Saturday’s game, to be back on the mound in relief Tuesday. Holbrook said the circumstances would have to be extraordinary.
“That’s something we don’t want to do,” Holbrook said. “If our team needed an out and a lefty’s coming up and we’re in the 15th inning and we don’t have anybody to go to, then maybe. I doubt that scenario will arise, and we certainly don’t want to throw Nolan tomorrow at all.”
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