Weekend Review: Depth Chart Comes Through
Seldom used outfielder Harley Lail was the biggest surprise of the weekend, going 5-11 while leading off the batting order in all three games against the Bears. Lail broke onto the scene in Friday's game with a three double performance, and the JUCO transfer now adds depth to a very deep outfield. Lail not only cracked a spot in the outfield with his showing over the weekend, he could potentially be the leadoff hitter in the SEC opener against LSU.
Lail brings more speed to the lineup, something this team really needs. It also allows Cheyne Hurst to hit in the number two hole, a spot that he appears more comfortable in.
There are times in baseball when a starter just isn't getting the job done and a solid bench is needed to help. Drew Martin proved to Coach Tanner that the decision no longer is who can get the big hit, but who wants to be the one who shines this time.
Martin's go-ahead grand slam on Sunday showed the USC staff that when the Gamecocks need a home run, he can also look to the bench. With Robbie Grinestaff and now Andrew Crisp being spot starters, there are some big bats Tanner can call on.
I still look for Crisp to win back a full time starting job soon, but right now he just needs to become more consistent.
Tanner said after Friday night's win that he is looking to find the best eight pitchers to use for SEC play. With having used 14 arms thus far, the decision has become tougher than expected.
The toughest decision may be who Tanner wants to take out of the bullpen and use as a weekday starter. If Jay Brown comes back and Hempy stays healthy, the decision to use Brown in midweek games is an easy one.
However, if one of those ideas doesn't go as planned, the question remains which pitcher will Tanner lose out of a very successful bullpen.
I truly believe it won't be Will Atwood. The sophomore standout is not only the best lefthander out of the pen, but also the guy Tanner feels most comfortable with right now.
Blake Cooper earned his first win going five strong innings Friday night and is a strong candidate. However, Tanner has called on him four times out of the bullpen and Cooper has done a great job so it may be tough for Tanner to lose him.
Jordan Costner, Curtis Johnson, Wynn Pelzer and Alex Farrato are certainly relievers who should all see action during SEC play. I believe that the weekday starter for Tuesday games, or Wednesday games if Brown or Hempy isn't healthy, will be either Jeff Jeffords or Nick Fuller.
Jeffords has done it before, and Fuller has struggled coming out of the bullpen his last two outings. Tanner may want to see what he can do as a starter. Still the front runner is Cooper.
This past weekend was very successful in not only the win column, but for Tanner to learn more about his team. Brown was simply no match for the Gamecocks, and USC swept the Bears in grand fashion
Now the real season begins. The Gamecocks have proven over 15 games that they are a College World Series contender. The goal of the regular season is to put yourself in a situation to host a Super Regional. That's really the best you can do.
Winning the SEC all but solidifies hosting a super regional. So let the fun begin, and Gamecock fans get ready. All the pieces are in place for a fun ride this spring, as Tanner and the Gamecocks continue their march to Omaha.
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