The Daily Gamecock

Lane: Baseball season a success

Gamecocks advanced to Supers despite injuries, roster shuffling

When South Carolina opened up the 2013 baseball season in February, the outlook for the Gamecocks went something like this: On the mound, Jordan Montgomery would emerge as the dominant Friday night starter, veteran Colby Holmes would anchor the Saturday spot and Nolan Belcher would grow into his role as a Sunday starter. In the bullpen, Tyler Webb would serve as the closer until either Evan Beal or Forrest Koumas took over the position. The outfield would be Graham Saiko, switch-hitting Tanner English and TJ Costen, with Ahmad Christian as the first replacement off the bench. Erik Payne would be the designated hitter. For a team that lost two of the top pitchers in school history (Michael Roth and Matt Price), two outfielders with professional aspirations (Evan Marzilli and Adam Matthews) and a two-time All-American slugger first baseman (Christian Walker) off the 2012 squad, a fourth consecutive trip to the College World Series seemed far-fetched.

Then the season started.

Montgomery suffered an injury three weeks into the campaign and missed five starts. Sophomore Beal, who couldn’t claim the closer job, became the Friday starter for a month, before losing the spot to Belcher. After helping throw a no-hitter against Albany, Holmes struggled, was demoted to the Sunday spot, and eventually lost the job to freshman Jack Wynkoop. Montgomery returned to the rotation and became the Saturday starter.

Webb settled into the closer role after neither Beal nor Koumas performed consistently enough to claim the job. With Webb closing games, the Gamecocks needed a setup man to get them to the late innings. Adam Westmoreland grabbed the spot and became USC’s best (and, in most cases, only) option out of the pen. Westmoreland not only pitched well enough to become a 25th round draft pick, he ended the year tied for the team lead with seven victories.

English’s switch-hitting project never got off the ground, as he sustained an injury to his shoulder less than a month into the season. Costen lost the starting job in right field due to his inconsistent performances and Ahmad Christian, the projected backup outfielder, injured his back in the first series of the season and was never a factor the rest of the year. The job ultimately went to Connor Bright, who started 45 games in right field. When the team media guide was released before the season began, four players were listed on the depth chart in right field. Bright was not one of them.

Erik Payne, who won the designated hitter job in the preseason, started only eight games and hit .185 for the season. Eleven different players took a stab at the DH spot over the course of the season, with Brison Celek getting the majority of the starts. Once postseason play began, LB Dantzler was moved to designated hitter to make way for Kyle Martin at first base. Martin responded by winning the Columbia Regional’s MOP award and Dantzler was named as a third-team All-American in the DH role.

All in all, a team that lost five of the most talented players in school history and dealt with injuries to several key starters at different times throughout the season fell two runs short of a trip to Omaha. With a 43-20 record, Chad Holbrook tied the school record for most wins by a first-year head coach.

South Carolina didn’t make the College World Series, but after everything the Gamecocks dealt with in 2013, the season has to be considered a success.

Fans, players and coaches just hope for a little more in 2014.


Trending Now

Send a Tip Get Our Email Editions