Gamecock Baseball Team begins Fall Practice

The Gamecocks opened their fall practice with a scrimmage on Friday and plan to scrimmage on Saturday and Sunday as well. Friday's scrimmage marks the beginning of a 45 day fall practice schedule that will culminate on Oct. 26th. The Gamecocks plan to scrimmage 18 times during that span and will look to rebound this season after a heartbreaking loss to ECU in the NCAA Regionals last year.


"It's great to be back out here," Coach Ray Tanner exclaimed as he began his first fall baseball talk with the media on Friday. "We started school back on August 20th and began doing skill work shortly thereafter. This is kind of like spring training except that it's in fall, but we've started getting the kinks out and stuff like that. It's just a great time for college baseball right now, and we're excited to start it up today."

Of the 43 players listed on the current Gamecock roster, 22 of them have at least one year of experience in the South Carolina program. Tanner stated he's excited to have one of the most experienced squads that he's ever had during his 14 year tenure at the helm of the program.

"We're a little bit older this year than we have been in the past, and that's a good feeling. I think our pitching staff is a lot deeper, and we've also got some young guys that look like they'll put some pressure on our older guys to perform. We've got some familiar faces out there on defense for us as well as some good hitters, and I'm encouraged by that. We're going to find out here in the fall which of our new guys is ready to step in there and contribute this season."

Because the NCCA requires that no more than 35 players can be on the active roster when the season begins, Tanner will be forced to whittle his team down at the end of fall training. The head coach claims that sometimes it can be an easy thing to do and other times it's a rather painstaking ordeal.

"I don't know if it will be difficult or not," noted Tanner of having to trim down the roster. "I may have difficulty getting down to 35 or I may not have 35 good ones. That's the way it normally is, we start with a little more than 40 players and go from there."

Injuries, redshirt players, and players who will have to sit out a year due to transferring helps to make Tanner's decision slightly easier, he claims.

"Adam Westmoreland is out for the entire year so that takes one of those spots out. Also, Logan Munson will be redshirting (due to his transfer from North Carolina), so that brings us down to around 39 or 40 players. Then we'll see if we've got 35 deserving guys, that's what fall practice is for. It will all shake itself out in the end."

One of the key injuries for the Gamecocks this preseason was projected starting outfielder Adam Matthews.

"(Matthews) had a meniscus tear in his knee. We believe he tweaked it a little bit this summer, then he tore it sliding for a pop fly in the outfield just recently. I believe he had surgery on Tuesday, and we think he should be back by the end of our fall practice."

Other than Matthews, Tanner stated that several others are unavailable due to injury as well.

"We've got quite a few guys out right now. Robert Beary is out with a hurt wrist. Adrian Morales is going to play, but he's having issues with his ankle right now. Bobby Haney is still out after having undergone surgery this summer to clean out his shoulder so he'll be limited in throwing the ball. Sam Dyson had surgery to clean up some scar tissue as well."

Tanner says that injuries like the ones mentioned above often give young players the opportunity to step up and show what they can do.

"We've got some young guys that we're going to take a look at while we wait for those guys to recover. So they'll have a chance to go out there and prove themselves to us."

Fall practice not only gives the youngsters a chance to show what they can do, it also provides the team with an opportunity to bond and learn from one another, according to Tanner.

"The fall gives us an opportunity to bond a little bit. As I told the guys last night, we start building our team today. We're not trying to go out there and win a game today, but hopefully guys can get acquainted with one another and more comfortable out here on the field. Hopefully our older guys can help the younger guys with a few things here and there. But this is the beginning of an important process for us."


Notes:

- The Gamecocks return 10 players who played in 30 games or more last season.

- First baseman Nick Ebert is the second leading home run hitter in the nation who returns to school for another season of college baseball.

- OF Jackie Bradley Jr. is ranked as the third best MLB prospect among sophomore college baseball players.

- The Gamecocks finished last season with a 38-21 overall record and a 17-13 record in SEC play.

- Tanner predicts the South Carolina football team will win by 10 points in their contest against the Georgia Bulldogs tomorrow evening. "I think we've got a great defense and that we'll convert one of their turnovers for a touchdown. We also seem to play really well in Athens."

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