Second baseman 0-for-5 with two errors in Sunday outing
It’s been a roller coaster homecoming for Gamecock second baseman Max Schrock.
A native of Chapel Hill, N.C., Schrock has shone and struggled in his return to his hometown to play against UNC for a place in the College World Series. An outstanding defensive play on Saturday was overshadowed by his 0-for-5 day at the plate. A 3-for-5 performance on Sunday was somewhat dimmed by two errors. The up and down play by one of USC’s most consistent starters has Gamecock head coach Chad Holbrook searching for answers.
“I’m going to have to put Doc Kasper [USC’s team psychologist] and him in a room together tonight,” Holbrook said after Sunday’s win.
If Schrock and the doctor do talk, the conversation is likely to center on the second baseman’s mental state in the field. Schrock seemed to find his swing at the plate on Sunday, raising his series average to .300 and ripping a leadoff double that started South Carolina’s five-run fifth inning, but groundballs to the freshman have been an adventure. Schrock bobbled a possible double play ball that could have ended the first inning and followed up with errors in the fifth and sixth innings. The freshman had made just seven errors in the 58 starts coming into the weekend.
Sophomore shortstop Joey Pankake, who also made an error on Sunday and has had defensive issues in his two years with the Gamecocks, said he told Schrock not to worry about the errors.
“I told him that I’ve had a lot of games like that,” Pankake said. “You just have to keep bouncing back and make the next play. I’ve done it my whole career.”
Schrock’s natural ability makes it nearly impossible to take him out of the lineup. The freshman is hitting .283 and leads South Carolina in stolen bases this season. Additionally, the Gamecocks have limited options behind him. Schrock has started 59 of USC’s 62 games at second base this season with Chase Vergason getting two starts and Connor Bright getting one.
Holbrook believes that the return home may be a reason for Schrock’s sudden miscues on defense.
“Schrock’s a really good player, but he’s tight as a banjo string right now,” said Holbrook. “He’s played great defense all year long.”
In Schrock’s defense, the rest of South Carolina’s defense hasn’t been flawless against the Tar Heels. Schrock’s error on Saturday was the only USC error that did not result in a run, as left fielder Graham Saiko dropped a line drive and a Connor Bright throwing error led to another run for UNC. Joey Pankake’s error on Sunday occurred just one batter before Schrock’s second mishap of the game. As Holbrook pointed out after Sunday’s contest, the field conditions also haven’t helped Schrock’s infield play.
“It’s hot out there and the field is hard,” said Holbrook. “Balls aren’t bouncing, it’s tough.”
With a fourth consecutive trip to Omaha just one win away, the Gamecocks are hoping that their youngest defensive starter will be ready to go on Monday.
For Schrock, there is still time for a storybook homecoming