One week after finalizing the 35-man roster, Chad Holbrook already is dealing with injuries as reserve outfielder Ahmad Christian will miss a month with a stress fracture in his lower back.
Unlike professional teams, however, college programs have no further flexibility once the roster is set. One of the players who didn’t make the final cut was freshman first baseman Ryan Ripken, the son of MLB Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.
Although Holbrook said the younger Ripken had the ability to make the team, it was uncertain how much playing time he would get.
“Ryan and his parents and I had some discussions leading up to decision day, and we just wanted to make sure that we didn’t jeopardize a year of his eligibility and him get a minimal number of at-bats,” Holbrook said. “So we collectively made a decision that redshirting Ryan was in his best interest.”
The coach wants Ripken to remain with the program next season.
“Ryan’s a good player. He was drafted (last summer by the Baltimore Orioles in the 20th round),” Holbrook said. “He’s got a bright future. I hope it’s here at South Carolina. We want him to be here. I think he can have a great career here.”
One week after a big Opening Day ceremony, another one is planned for Saturday, when the 1977 College World Series team will be honored with rings. Despite reaching the national championship game, where the Gamecocks lost 2-1 to Arizona State, they never received rings for their efforts.
The school is now making good on that. Several team members will be at Carolina Stadium to receive the rings, including former coach June Raines. That team was led by pitcher Randy Martz, who went 14-0 on the way to being the national player of the year, and center fielder Mookie Wilson, who had a standout career in the major leagues.
“It’s obviously an incredible team and incredible group of guys that deserve to be recognized. It’s long overdue,” Holbrook said.
Getting nosed out
Center fielder Tanner English broke his nose last Sunday making a spectacular diving catch, but he’s determined not to miss a beat. Although doctors suggested surgery Monday, which would cause him to miss the Albany and Clemson weekends and perhaps up to six more while the nose healed, English passed.
“I just opted not to do that. I didn’t want to let the team down. I didn’t want to miss any games,” English said. “I can just get it done in the offseason. I’ll live through it and just deal with it.”
He knew it was hurt right away after the play with his nose bleeding and eyes watering.
“I’m sure that if I didn’t catch the ball, it would have hurt a lot worse,” he said with a smile.
With rain forecast for Friday and into Saturday, Holbrook knows the games may have to be juggled. Although he wants to get each of them in on the scheduled days, he realizes another doubleheader may need to be played on Saturday or Sunday depending on the length and steadiness of the rain.
The starting pitching will remain the same after a good weekend against Liberty, and Holbrook remains confident in the middle relief — Joel Seddon, Patrick Sullivan, Forrest Koumas and Evan Beal — despite some struggles.
Holbrook wants to get two-way freshman Curt Britt some innings as well as some at-bats. He also would like to get utilityman Connor Bright a couple of starts this weekend.
At this time, he also expects freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop to get the Tuesday start against Furman.