The Daily Gamecock

Baseball travels to Gardner-Webb

	<p><span class="caps">USC</span> sophomore Brison Celek is riding a nine-game hitting streak. He had the game-winning hit in Saturday’s second contest.</p>
USC sophomore Brison Celek is riding a nine-game hitting streak. He had the game-winning hit in Saturday’s second contest.

Holbrook returns home to Shelby, NC, tonight

For coach Chad Holbrook, tonight’s baseball game against Gardner-Webb is practically a homecoming.

Holbrook was born and raised in Shelby, N.C., and his father Eddie coached the Bulldogs in basketball for nine seasons.
After winning four consecutive games, including a weekend sweep of Kentucky at Carolina Stadium, the Gamecocks (31-10, 11-7 SEC) will look to continue the winning streak against their nonconference opponent before traveling to LSU this weekend.

“I’m proud to take my team to my hometown,” Holbrook said. “I’m sure Gardner-Webb is champing at the bit to beat our rear end, too. It’ll be great for college baseball, and I think our team will enjoy playing in that environment.”

After Sunday’s 3-1 win, Holbrook said he had not decided who would make the start against Gardner-Webb (20-19-1, 7-8 Big South) and that he would lean on pitching coach Jerry Meyers to make the decision. Sophomores Joel Seddon and Evan Beal were two likely candidates after not pitching in any of the three games against Kentucky.

Senior Colby Holmes made two appearances in the series, but each time he faced just one batter, allowing a walk. In the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the runner scored when senior Adam Westmoreland allowed a home run. Senior closer Tyler Webb pitched a scoreless ninth inning after Holmes was lifted from Sunday’s game.

Webb and Westmoreland have carried South Carolina’s bullpen so far this season. Webb leads the team with 19 relief appearances and has allowed two earned runs in 28 innings. Westmoreland has logged the second-most innings on the team and holds a 1.81 ERA.

Beyond those two pitchers, USC has not had a consistent middle reliever. Holbrook said the other players are in an unfair situation because they often face just one hitter at a time and are pulled from the game immediately after any mistake. Webb and Westmoreland have more leeway because they have been so consistent throughout the year.

Still, the coach said other relievers are responsible for taking advantage of the chances they are given.

“I don’t think we’re any different than anybody else in our league,” Holbrook said. “You give me two studs at the back of the bullpen, I’ll take that. Those guys have pitched really good. We’ll get those other guys going.”

Celek’s surge: After the weekend series, junior Brison Celek is riding a nine-game hitting streak, the longest of his Gamecock career. Celek had the game-winning hit in the 11th inning of Saturday’s second game.

The junior is in the midst of a breakout season, boasting a .308 batting average. Celek redshirted in 2011 and played in 29 games as a sophomore. He said he has changed his approach at the plate and no longer tries to hit solely for power.

“In previous years, I was apparently supposed to be a home run hitter,” Celek said.

Celek hit his first career home run earlier this season. Holbrook attributed his recent success to the ability to use the whole field and limit his strikeouts, although he had four in one game Saturday.

“When he has difficulty, or when he strikes out a lot, his swing gets too long and he tries to hit it to the stands out there and gets pull-happy,” Holbrook said.

The coach added that Celek used to be a “swing at everything” guy, but he has learned to use the other side of the field as he matures.


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