Sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery may make his return to the mound Sunday.
His arm injury has kept him from throwing since he tossed eight shutout innings in a March 2 win over Clemson. But after some rehabilitation and a couple bullpen sessions, Montgomery (3-0) may face the Volunteers for a short stint, depending on whether he has ongoing soreness.
“If Jordan feels good, we’ll give him the ball,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said.
If Montgomery can’t go, senior right-hander Colby Holmes or freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop will probably draw the start.
Shouldering the load
Backup center fielder T.J. Costen, whose shoulder popped out Wednesday in the loss to Furman, isn’t making the trip to Tennessee. But Holbrook said the results of Thursday’s tests on Costen’s shoulder were good, which means he might return next week.
Starting center fielder Tanner English will be back in the lineup this weekend after not playing the field in the two mid-week games due to lingering shoulder soreness. But Holbrook believes it is “less sore” after the rest, although the pain may not go completely away this season.
“He’ll have to manage that thing all year long,” Holbrook said.
The revolving door at designated hitter — nine starters have been used there — may slow down. After good nights from Brison Celek and George Iskenderian against Furman, when both had a single and a double, Holbrook may focus on platooning them at the spot in the short term.
He cites the power of Celek (.333, 6 RBIs) and the all-around ability of Iskenderian (.290, 6 RBIs), who played third against the Paladins.
“I haven’t seen Brison have an approach like he did last night. That was very encouraging. He looked like a veteran hitter that had been in there every day,” Holbrook said. “George gives you some speed and some athleticism. He can do a few things that Brison can’t. Maybe it’s a good mix to go with the hot hand and play them both there.”
WHEN: Friday, 6 p.m.; Saturday, 12:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.
WHERE: Lindsey Nelson Stadium, Knoxville
RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5
TV: SportSouth, Saturday
SERIES: USC leads 48-34
LAST MEETING: USC won two-of-three last season against the Volunteers.
RECORDS: USC 23-7, 5-4 SEC; Tennessee 13-14, 3-6 SEC
RANKINGS: USC is No. 15 in Baseball America
PITCHING MATCHUPS: Friday, USC LHP Nolan Belcher, Sr., 5-2, 1.57 vs. Tennessee RHP Aaron Quillen, Fr., 1-1, 6.34; Saturday, USC RHP Evan Beal, Soph., 2-1, 4.30 vs. Tennessee RHP Nick Williams, Jr., 1-1, 3.46; Sunday, USC TBA vs. Tennessee RHP Zack Godley, Sr., 2-2, 3.04
NOTES: USC has won every series against Tennessee dating to 2007, winning 14-of-18 over that period. … Nolan Belcher leads the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio with 51 strikeouts to one walk. … 1B LB Dantzler is the only USC player to start all 30 games this year. He hit his team-leading 10th home run earlier this week, which tied his total from 2012. … The Gamecocks are 21-0 this season when leading after six innings.