The Daily Gamecock

USC baseball prepares for important series

Holbrook says team will need to have sense of ‘urgency’ against UT

Coach Chad Holbrook said the Gamecocks are anxious to take the field against Tennessee after falling 6-5 at Furman Wednesday night.

Although USC (23-7, 5-4 SEC) will face a team that has lost four consecutive games, South Carolina anticipates a challenge.

“I hate to put an emphasis and say we’re at a crossroads, because I don’t think it’s to that point,” Holbrook said. “But we need to play well. We need to have a heightened sense of urgency this weekend.”

USC was riding a five-game winning streak prior to Wednesday’s loss, including a weekend sweep of Texas A&M at Carolina Stadium last weekend. Tennessee (13-14, 3-6) enters the series after being swept by Vanderbilt on the road and falling to Longwood in a midweek contest.

“We think we’re a pretty good team, and we got swept (by Arkansas),” Holbrook said. “That does happen, especially in this league.”

Senior Nolan Belcher, who leads the nation with one walk allowed on the season, will start tonight for the Gamecocks. Belcher pitched 8.1 innings against the Aggies in his last start, allowing two earned runs. That performance gave him his fifth win of the season and lowered his ERA to 1.57.

The Gamecocks will look for another long outing from Belcher to save their bullpen for later in the weekend.

“He’s been our consistent guy,” Holbrook said. “The numbers are really, really, really good. He battles. He throws strikes, obviously. It would be a big shot in the arm if he could go seven or eight innings [tonight].”

Sophomore Evan Beal has been named the starter for Saturday, but Sunday’s starter has not been announced. Sophomore Jordan Montgomery, who has been sidelined with a stress reaction in his throwing arm, will pitch if he feels healthy.

If he does not, Holbrook said the coaching staff would decide between freshman Jack Wynkoop and seniors Colby Holmes and Adam Westmoreland, depending on whether they are used in the Friday and Saturday games.

Tennessee senior Zack Godley, who hails from Bamberg, S.C., and formerly played for Spartanburg Methodist, will pitch against the Gamecocks Sunday. In eight appearances this season, including seven starts, Godley has an ERA of 3.04. He leads the Volunteers with 50.1 innings pitched.

Holbrook said he is less familiar with the Volunteers’ starters for the other two games, freshman Aaron Quillen and junior Nick Williams.

“I know this: If you’re a pitcher and you pitch for (Tennessee coach) Dave Serrano, you’ve been taught well,” Holbrook said. “You’re going to throw strikes and hold runners and be able to throw your off-speed pitches for strikes.”

Despite Tennessee’s recent losing streak, the Gamecocks are not overlooking their opponent as they aim to bounce back from their nonconference loss.

“I think our kids know how important this weekend is,” Holbrook said. “That doesn’t guarantee we’re going to win.”

Injury note: Sophomore TJ Costen will not make the trip to Tennessee after leaving Wednesday’s game with a shoulder injury. Holbrook said the team was encouraged by his strength tests Wednesday morning and that, if able, he will swing a bat Monday or Tuesday. He is hopeful this weekend’s games are the only ones Costen will miss.
Sophomore Tanner English, who has been dealing with shoulder discomfort throughout the season, will start in center field tonight.