Crisp embraces leadership role

South Carolina senior Andrew Crisp has been through numerous trials during his career in Columbia. The Greer native has battled through injuries, shifted positions and been a part of some great success during his five years in the program. But with his final regular season behind him, Crisp is looking to use all his experience to lead the Gamecocks in the SEC Tournament later this week.

Over the course of South Carolina's regular season series finale with Georgia, everything seemed to be going the Gamecocks' way. USC was scoring timely runs, getting great pitching and were in solid control of the Bulldogs the entire weekend. Things seemed to be clicking for everyone. Except for maybe Andrew Crisp.

In possibly his final home series, the senior had gone 0-for-11 with just two walks against the Bulldogs through the seventh inning of Saturday's series finale. But with Nick Ebert standing on first following a walk in the bottom half of the eighth inning, Crisp came up for his last at-bat of the series and rolled a ball to left into no man's land for a double. That started a chain reaction that was followed by a two-run double from Bobby Haney and two-run homer from Scott Wingo. The result – a 6-1 win, a series sweep and for Crisp a chance to crack a smile.

"A lucky double but I didn't really hit that well. As far as the team, we've been great so I'm happy with that and we have a sweep of a tough Georgia team and it feels good. It feels good going to the SEC Tournament," Crisp said. "It's one of those things where you get one little thing and you get hot, the you get cold, then hot, then cold, you never know. I just try to stay consistent."

Consistency has been the catchphrase to use when describing the career of the Greer native who is using his senior year to make an assault on the USC record book. Already at No. 6 all-time at Carolina in career hits with 255, the third baseman is 10 hits away from tying Landon Powell and Derick Urquhart for fifth place all-time. His 27 career home runs put him three long balls away from becoming the 24th player in school history to have over 30 homers in a career. His 21 doubles on the season already ties him with five other players for the fifth most in a season at Carolina and is tops in the SEC this season. He is three doubles away from tying Paul Hollins for the 10th best doubles total in a career.

Coupled with his career at the plate, Crisp has been a part of success on the field for the Gamecocks in each season he has been part of. Including his red shirt season of 2005, Crisp will have been in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments each of his five seasons including back-to-back appearances in the Super Regionals in 2006 and 2007. With three more wins, the Gamecocks will have eclipsed the 40-plus win mark in each of year with Crisp on the squad. It's those kinds of memories that have made his senior season one which he doesn't want to see in.

"It's a little bittersweet man. It's a little too fast but that's what happens in life. You take one step forward and you feel like you took three," Crisp said. "You get older and older and older and luckily enough I got a chance to be here five years and enjoy some great coaching, some great teammates and some good games."

With a résumé filled up by individual and team accolades, Crisp has become the man the Gamecocks have turned to for senior leadership. Of the 37 players on the roster, 16 of them are in their first season and many of the returning players spent little time on the field in previous years. That makes Crisp the odd man out as the fifth-year player has made appearances in games at almost all the outfield position, at every infield position except first base and as a designated hitter. It's that experience that USC will be counting on as they begin their postseason against fourth-seeded Alabama in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday. The Crimson Tide come into the tournament with a reputation for drawing big crowds in Hoover and are the only conference team USC didn't play this spring.

"Right now we're scheduled to play the night game so that's going to be a big game, it's going to be a big crowd," Crisp said. "I think we're looking to face Alabama I think and they're going to be playing at a home field. You know, we're playing in Alabama, we're playing Alabama so it's going to good. It's going to be great. It's going to be fun."

Along with his seniority, Crisp and the Gamecocks enter the tournament on a seven-game win streak and with only one loss in the month of May. The success vaulted USC to a second place finish in the SEC Eastern Division as a No. 5 seed in the field of eight teams. While the success has been noteworthy, Crisp quickly points out Carolina can still improve itself if they want to go deep into the postseason.

"We're playing good enough to win so that's always good. You can always improve on little things and we're going to hopefully do that," Crisp said. "We're going to practice before we go and we're going to be ready man. We're going to be competitive, we're going to be fighting. We're going to fight the whole way."

Though there is still plenty of baseball possibly left to be played, Crisp has wasted no time in passing along what he has learned over the last few seasons to this year's team. His advice has been simple – enjoy the ride.

"Just take it in. It's going to go by fast and you've got to play hard man. It's not everything to win. You're going to be more of a person after baseball in life than you are on the field," Crisp said. "On the field it's just a short time and during that time I know that everybody messes up and they don't think they played as hard as they can but you want to play as hard as you can. Put it all on the field, balls out and just give it all you've got man."

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