Gamecocks coming off 7-6 loss to Gardner-Webb on Tuesday
With one of South Carolina’s biggest tests of the season looming on the horizon, coach Chad Holbrook said his team could not be more ready to challenge the No. 2 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La., this weekend.
“Many publications have called them one of, if not the best team in the country this year,” Holbrook said. “We have our hands full, obviously, but it’s also a great opportunity for our team.”
USC (31-11, 11-7 SEC) enters this weekend’s pivotal series on the heels of one of its most up-and-down stretches of the 2013 campaign. In the Gamecocks’ previous two SEC series, they were swept by Florida, then proceeded to turn the brooms on Kentucky and earn a sweep themselves. On Tuesday, however, the team relinquished an 8th-inning lead in a loss to Gardner-Webb.
While he insists injuries do not serve as an excuse, Holbrook said a banged-up USC roster could have played a part in his team’s inconsistency, and he pointed to the Gamecocks’ current healthy status as a reason to be optimistic heading into the LSU series.
“I had one of our players come up to me yesterday and say, ‘You know coach, we haven’t lost a series when we’ve been healthy,’” Holbrook said. “And I’m glad he said it. I hadn’t even thought about it, but the mere fact that they feel that makes me think that they have some confidence.”
The coach said that he supports anything his players can tell themselves to stay positive in the locker room, and that while he does not have “the most talented team in the country,” he has never had to question its work ethic.
As he has done in recent weeks, Holbrook has chosen to leave Sunday’s starter TBD, but barring any bullpen appearances from freshman Jack Wynkoop in the first two games, he will most likely get the ball in the ESPN-televised series finale. Wynkoop enters the weekend as the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week after picking up his first conference win Sunday against Kentucky.
Lately, Holbrook has looked to the freshman more and more, whether it be as a starter or a reliever, and said that Wynkoop is a recruiting gamble that has paid off so far.
“He’s a 6’5” string-bean lefty that probably weighed about 150 pounds at that time, and he was throwing 82 mph at that time with a great pick-off move,” Holbrook said. “But he was young at that time and he was tall and he was athletic, and we rolled the dice.”
Aside from a few promising athletic abilities, Holbrook said it was Wynkoop’s life outside of baseball that attracted him to the lefty. An avid surfer that travels around the country in search of waves during the offseason, Wynkoop exemplifies the balance Holbrook said he looks for all his Gamecock baseball players to maintain in their lives.
South Carolina’s No. 11 national ranking will be put to the test this weekend against an LSU team that has beaten the Gamecocks in nine of the schools’ 11 meetings since 2008. Despite the odds, Holbrook said he has a team full of “winners” that will not lie down against the Tigers.
“We know that it’s a tall task, but our guys expect to win too, just like LSU expects to win,” Holbrook said. “So we’re going to go down there and play as hard as we possibly can play, play as well as we possibly can play, hopefully make some breaks and find ourselves in a good position in a couple of these games.”