South Carolina head baseball coach Ray Tanner has never believed in letting his players get too caught up in their opponent.
And there's no way he's going to let that change as No. 4 South Carolina gets ready to take on No. 1 overall seed Virginia in Tuesday night's winner's bracket game at the College World Series.
"We're not going to focus too much on Virginia," Tanner said Monday. "If you do that you're going to get some nerves going."
That will especially be important for starting pitcher Colby Holmes. While many on this Carolina team experienced the big stage of Omaha last year, Holmes wasn't one of them, and the sophomore will make his first career CWS appearance.
"He's earned it," Tanner says. "He deserves to be here and I'm excited to see him out there."
Holmes is 7-3 with a 3.78 ERA on the season. His biggest downfall has been a tendency to give up the long ball in otherwise great starts. Holmes has given up 12 home runs on the season while the entire rest of the Carolina pitching staff has given up 14 homers.
But Holmes may be helped by TD Ameritrade Park, which has played incredibly large in its first two days of action with only two home runs hit.
"It feels good," Holmes said of getting the start. "I'm just going to go out there [with a] mindset to win -- throw strikes and let them hit it -- it's a big park, wherever it falls it goes."
Virginia used Tyler Wilson, the Cavs No. 2 starter for much of the year, out of the bullpen in its victory over Cal Sunday. But don't confuse Tuesday's starter Will Roberts as a typical No. 3 pitcher.
Roberts holds an 11-1 record and a 1.58 ERA. But Tanner's players are trying to do what they've done all year long and leave the scouting reports to their coaches.
"I heard he threw a perfect game, I haven't heard anything else about him," Sunday's hero Scott Wingo said. "Is he a righty or lefty? I dunno. All of their guys they throw are good, we've just got to be ready to play."
Tanner says that outfielder Evan Marzilli, who started Sunday against Texas A&M, despite dealing with a hamstring injury will be worked out before the game but should be in the line-up. Marzilli's workout Monday was light.
Marzilli's ability to play and the return of center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. may give Tanner a boost to his bullpen, too.
Junior left-hander Steven Neff, who filled in as a left fielder and designated hitter for part of the year due to the abundance of injuries in the outfield, worked a bullpen session Monday and could be available, according to Tanner. The junior had a 3-1 record and 2.45 ERA in 36.2 innings of work this season before being asked to fill in as a hitter.
"Pitching and timely hitting and good defense is who's going to win tomorrow," Wingo said. "So, if we come to play and go out there and battle, we'll have a good shot maybe."
South Carolina and Virginia is scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET first pitch and will be televised on ESPN.
"We're just going to try to be who we are," Tanner said. "We know what type of club we have and we don't really play against the opposition, we try to play to our strengths and we hope that at the end of the day its good enough to win."
Quotes courtesy of University of South Carolina Athletics.
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