Gamecocks Open 2007 Season on Road Trip
The Gamecocks will not be 100% going into the weekend. Junior Arik Hempy's injury has been well documented, although he could see time sooner than expected. Senior Robbie Grinestaff is doubtful for this weekend due to a nerve disorder which is not allowing him to grip a ball in his throwing hand. Head Coach Ray Tanner says no one is sure when this injury took place. Senior Jon Willard will get the nod on opening day in left field replacing Grinestaff, according to Tanner. "He's worked hard, and he's earned it."
Captain Steven Reinhold is questionable with a broken finger, but could see time only in the field.
A question mark still lingers around sophomore Andrew Crisp. The Greer, SC native, a member of the 2006 SEC All-Freshman and Freshman All-America team, was not 100% coming into spring practice and has not hit well so far. However Tanner said Crisp will play this weekend and when he gets back on track, there is no question he'll start. Crisp can play a number of positions and when healthy, should see time in center field. Senior Cheyne Hurst will be there on Friday.
There is still one position battle taking place. Sophomore James Darnell and freshman Lonnie Chisenhall will both start for the Gamecocks, however Tanner doesn't know where yet. One will get the nod at third base, and whoever loses that job, will play right field. Expect to see this battle continue into the start of the season.
There are no questions about who will lock down the other infield jobs. Sophomore Reese Havens will be at shortstop, junior Travis Jones will be at second base, and sophomore Justin Smoak will be at first base
Behind the plate is another familiar name, Junior Trent Kline, and he'll be back there most of the year. Designated hitter Phil Disher will also fill in at times behind the plate to give Kline a rest.
Tanner may know who will play each position on opening day, but where they'll be in the batting order is still a question. Tanner says Jones has done an excellent job at getting on base in the 130 innings of scrimmages the team has had, so he'll be the leadoff man. Surprisingly, Chisenhall will be in the second spot. The left handed hitter has done well since joining the team and Tanner believes he's ready for the challenge. The only other spot Tanner has set is who will hit fourth. That spot belongs to Smoak, because Tanner believes his two best hitters should be in the second and fourth spots. We all know about Smoak, but the verdict is still out on Chisenhall.
There is no question about the pitching rotation, which is usually not the case with the Gamecocks. Junior Harris Honeycutt has been chosen to be the opening day starter. "It's a privilege to get the ball opening day, but I have to remember it's the same sixty feet, six inches," Honeycutt said. Junior Jay Brown will toe the rubber on Saturday, and sophomore Mike Cisco will get the ball on Sunday.
Tanner is very excited about the depth of the bullpen, and it begins with closer Wynn Pelzer. The hard throwing junior will stay in the closer's role this season, and Tanner believes this is best for him.
There are many familiar faces in the bullpen, but a couple of new ones could make an early impression. Freshman Nick Fuller and junior Jordan Costner will have a chance this weekend to earn some praise from Tanner.
The Gamecocks will play an Oklahoma team on Friday that has already seen the field this year. Junior outfielder Joseph Dunigan leads a largely left handed hitting lineup and will be a tough first task for the Gamecocks.
Saturday's opponent, Western Kentucky, was 22-30 last season. The Hilltoppers are a member of the Sun Belt Conference. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.
On Sunday the Gamecocks will face the host team, UNC Wilmington. The Seahawks were 42-28 last year and are defending Colonial Athletic Association Conference Champions. First pitch is at 2 p.m.
The Gamecocks are hoping to come away from the weekend with a sweep and head down to The Citadel Tournament next weekend in great shape. Expect the Gamecocks to use a lot of players in the rotation this weekend, as Tanner begins to see who he can rely on.
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