NOTEBOOK: Second base still unsettled

One week into the season, South Carolina (3-0) is right where it wants to be, but that doesn't mean there aren't still question marks as the Gamecocks host Elon (4-0) this weekend. Look inside as Tanner discusses a number of topics including second base, his thoughts on Matt Price's outing and the biggest concern Elon's offense presents.

While the majority of South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner's line-up card could have already been filled out at Thursday's pre-practice press conference, second base remains the one question mark one weekend into the 2012 season.

Three different players -- Chase Vergason, T.J. Costen and Connor Bright -- got starts at the position in the Gamecocks' season-opening series against VMI, and Tanner didn't rule out the possibility of all three playing this weekend, either.

"We're still trying to figure out what our best line-up will be," Tanner said Thursday. "I know that it's not where I wanted to be at this point. I'm not sure you can rotate your infielders like you could if it was a DH or a corner outfielder, necessarily, so we want to get settled in."

"Settling in" seems to be the correct word choice. Tanner has three players who are capable, but neither has been able to get completely comfortable yet.

"We've been kind of joking this week that we've been having tryouts at second base," Tanner says.

Vergason, a junior college transfer, had the lead entering the season, and started opening day. But he didn't record a hit in four at-bats and didn't seem completely comfortable in the field.

Freshman T.J. Costen got the start in game-two last week, but made a fielding error on the first batted ball of the contest. Costen did rebound to hit a pinch-hit home run in game-three of the series.

Tanner says freshman Connor Bright has made progress as well.

The position may not be settled after this weekend either.

"They're all good players," Tanner says. "It's just a matter of getting one of them comfortable enough to go play and be a productive contributor to our team."

No worries about Price

For five innings, Matt Price's debut as the Gamecocks' Saturday starter appeared to be going perfect. Well, nearly perfect. Price hit a couple of batters, but the former All-American closer looked didn't give up a single hit.

Then the sixth inning hit and his command seemed to leave him. Price walked three batters and hit another as he allowed two runs and gave way to Ethan Carter, who finished the game.

The logical thought may have been that Price, transitioning from closer to starter, simply ran out of gas. But Tanner isn't buying that explanation.

"Was he tired? Was he worn out? Did he hit a wall? I don't think so," he said. "He's well-conditioned. I know he even made that comment [about being tired], but I think sometimes you don't exactly what to say.

"I think that he got behind a little bit and pressed a little bit and that happens in this game whether it's offensively, defensively or pitching."

Price was nearing his pitch count when he was taken out, and Tanner said the finish to the outing won't cause Price to have a shortened leash this week.

"From a positive standpoint, I liked what I saw," Tanner said. "He had good stuff. They had trouble making a good contact against him, I guess he never gave up a hit. He pitched inside a little bit, he hit a couple of guys, that's going to happen, that didn't bother me so much."

Tanner was also happy with closer Forrest Koumas' short stint on Friday. The sophomore is attempting to replace Price in the role after coming up big as a freshman starter last year.

Tanner likes Koumas' competitive nature and high energy, and believes that he's best suited for short relief stints because it allows him to use his aggressive nature and attack hitters.

"He was pretty good his only time out," Tanner says. "So, we're hoping that it works out. I think he likes this role. And we're going to see what happens. Maybe it's not etched in stone necessarily, but i think he has the personality and the ability to pitch in short relief."

Catchers get a test?

One glance at Elon's statistics through four games and one thing is quite obvious: the Phoenix like to run the bases. Elon has already stolen 10 bases in 14 attempts in the young season.

"They're going to run bases," Tanner said. "I think they're probably in double digits already, through four games. That seems to be the one thing that jumps out at you going into the series, is we'll have to defend the running game, because that's part of what they do offensively."

The double digit steals aren't skewed by any one player. The Phoenix entire order seems to be involved. Four different players are tied for the team lead with two stolen bases each, and nine different players have attempted a steal.

That will be a test for the Gamecocks' catcher duo of Grayson Greiner and Dante Rosenberg.

Tanner liked what he saw from each last weekend.

"I was pleased," he said. "Going into the season, we felt pretty good about Dante and Grayson back there, and they did a nice job last weekend. I think Grayson got his only guy [attempting to steal], and couple of guys ran [successfully] against Rosenberg. I'm happy with where they are."

Tanner says he'll continue to rotate both players, and noted that it's difficult to go with one catcher at this level.

EXTRA BASES

- Tanner says he wasn't necessarily disappointed with the offense last weekend, but that he would like to see his hitters be a little more aggressive in hitter's counts. Overall, he was happy with the offense, though there were some times they didn't hit with runners in score position. Tanner credited VMI's ability to pitch as well.

- Tanner says it's too early to tell who will be the team's primary designated hitter or designated hitters. Kyle Martin had a good start to the season, but Sean Sullivan, T.J. Costen and Brison Celek will all get opportunities. Catcher Grayson Greiner also got a start at DH last week.

- Tanner says he tries not to schedule too many mid-week games early because of the weather. He noted that the weather has been so good this year that it would have been fine to have an early-season mid-week game.

- Starters Michael Roth, Price and Colby Holmes will be on pitch counts again.

- Nolan Belcher, Patrick Sullivan and Adam Westmoreland didn't get to pitch last weekend, because there wasn't a perfect opportunity to get them in the game. The big lead in game-three offered a chance for young pitchers to get their feet wet, according to Tanner.

- Tanner believes it's likely to take 15 games before the pitching staff's roles are completely defined. Tanner does like his team's depth in the bullpen.

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