Chad Holbrook knows his playing and coaching career could have turned out much differently if he had decided to attend Clemson instead of North Carolina after his career at Shelby (N.C.) High ended in 1989.
Former Clemson coach Bill Wilhelm recruited him more diligently than any other school. But Holbrook decided to stay instate at UNC, where his sister Nicole, a Clemson graduate, was attending graduate school.
Wilhelm, who became a coaching legend for the Tigers during his tenure from 1958-93, passed away in 2010. Holbrook thinks often about what might have been.
I was very close to him. He recruited me extremely hard, Holbrook said. He stayed in touch with me all through my coaching career and playing career. I worked his baseball camps. He was a mentor of mine. He was a great baseball guy, a great baseball coach, a great human being. Ill miss not seeing him (today).
Holbrook isnt flipping out about the possibility of shortstop Joey Pankake not playing against Clemson due to a hip injury, but he would certainly like to have his sophomore standout in the lineup. Pankake, who suffered the muscle strain last weekend against Albany, missed Tuesdays win over Furman.
He is feeling better, Holbrook said. He certainly is not a shoo-in to play, but hes not doubtful either.
If Pankake, who is hitting .353 in six games, doesnt have the lateral movement needed to play in the field, he still might be able to serve as designated hitter. Holbrook expects freshman DC Arendas, who has looked sharp defensively, to play short if Pankake cant make the start.
Holbrook really likes the ability of Clemson sophomore right-hander Daniel Gossett (1-0, 0.77 ERA), who will start Fridays game. He cited Gossetts live arm, breaking ball and composure on the mound while complimenting the game Gossett threw against the Gamecocks allowing two runs in seven innings in the NCAA regional last season.
Theres no doubt in my mind he could be an All-American, Holbrook said.
Hitting the road
After starting the season with seven straight home games, the Gamecocks will play their first road contest Friday night before a sellout crowd of fans wearing orange at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
He expects to learn much more about the toughness of his team.
Youre not at home. Its not necessarily a comfortable environment. Its a difficult place to play, he said. Theyve got great fans and a great baseball stadium. Its a great environment for them. Well see how our players respond to that. Im anxious to see that, because we havent been on the road yet.