Notebook: Holbrook plans to mix up lineup vs. Bucknell

nwhite@thestate.comFebruary 14, 2014 

  • BISON AT GAMECOCKS

    WHO: Bucknell at USC

    WHERE: Carolina Stadium

    WHEN: Saturday (DH), noon and 4 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

    RADIO: WNKT 107.5 FM and 1320 AM will simulcast Saturday’s opener until 3:30, then 107.5 goes to USC men’s basketball and 1320 stays with baseball. Sunday’s broadcast is 107.5.

    NOTES: USC’s weekend rotation will be LHP Jordan Montgomery, LHP Jack Wynkoop and RHP Wil Crowe.

Don’t expect to see Chad Holbrook use the same lineup all three games of this weekend’s season-opening series against Bucknell.

The shuffle will take place on the left side of the field at shortstop, third base and left field, as well as at designated hitter. Holbrook continues to sort through the possibilities, but one thing is certain -- Joey Pankake wills play.

Pankake, who hit .311 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs last season, will primarily start at third base, but he will move to left field if Holbrook decides to use DC Arendas at third. Arendas has battled all preseason with JUCO transfer Marcus Mooney at shortstop and could play some there as well.

If Pankake stays at third, Elliott Caldwell, another JUCO transfer, will play left field. At the DH spot, it could be Brison Celek or freshman Taylor Widener. This shuffle could continue until Holbrook settles on a regular lineup before the SEC schedule starts.

Big man on the mound

Getting the Opening Day start is 6-foot-5 junior left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who has gone 12-2 with a 2.51 ERA in his first two seasons. Holbrook views the unflappable Montgomery as a perfect Friday night ace.

“He has pitched in some incredibly big games, both as a freshman and a sophomore,” Holbrook said. “He has had an incredible amount of success against some of the better teams in the country. We feel great about where Jordan is. He’s been about as dominant as I’ve seen a pitcher in the preseason.”

Sophomore left-hander Jack Wynkoop, who went 7-3 with a 3.09 ERA last season, will pitch the second game Saturday, and freshman right-hander Wil Crowe will pitch Sunday.

“Wil is one of our top recruits. He has earned the right to be one of our weekend rotation guys,” Holbrook said. “I’m excited about seeing him pitch on Sunday. He’s a competitor, and he’s a workhorse.”

Catch as catch can

With no experienced catcher behind preseason All-American Grayson Greiner, Holbrook is looking for a way to keep Greiner rested and healthy.

“Grayson wants to catch every inning of every game. He’s made it clear to me that he wants to do it,” Holbrook said. “But that’s asking a bit too much. Depending upon the score or the situation, I’m going to pick my spots to get him out of there.”

Freshman Logan Koch and junior Patrick Harrington are the backup catchers.

Stampede

Bucknell, a Patriot League team, is coming off a 16-33 season, but Holbrook refuses to take any team lightly. He remembers how well the Bison played against the Gamecocks in the 2010 NCAA regional, when USC needed a comeback to pull out the opening win that started their first national championship run.

“They’ll present some challenges for us,” Holbrook said. “I told them yesterday, ‘Don’t be surprised if it’s 2-2 in the seventh inning.’ I believe that.”

Target on the back

Holbrook said he is flattered that his team was picked to win the SEC Championship in the coaches’ preseason poll.

“It’s a nice compliment. They think we have some good players, and they think our program is in a good spot,” Holbrook said. “It’s nice to be recognized like that. That should give us some confidence that the best coaches in the country think we’re pretty good.”

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