Rain pushes back start time for Gamecocks-Vols

nwhite@thestate.comMarch 28, 2014 

Jordan Montgomery

DWAYNE MCLEMORE — dmclemore@thestate.com

First pitch for Friday's South Carolina-Tennessee baseball game has been pushed back to 8:15 p.m. due to the weather conditions in Columbia. The game is not on television but can be heard locally on 107.5 FM. It will be streamed online at GamecocksOnline.com.

Holbrook has faith in Montgomery

Junior left-hander Jordan Montgomery has struggled in recent weeks, but he hasn’t lost the confidence of USC coach Chad Holbrook.

The Friday night starter has looked like two different pitchers over his six starts. In 171/3 innings against Bucknell, Eastern Kentucky and Brown, he gave up no runs. But in 13 1/3 innings against Clemson, Ole Miss and Kentucky, he has allowed 21 runs – 17 earned – which boosted his ERA to 4.99.

Still, Holbrook remembers the pitcher who entered this season with a 12-2 mark and 2.51 ERA, which included huge performances in NCAA play.

“Jordan’s our guy,” Holbrook said. “If we want to be the team we hope to be and compete for a championship and have the opportunity to play deep into the postseason, Jordan Montgomery is going to have to be out front for us.”

Holbrook added that Montgomery (3-2) had a “great” bullpen session this week. He also believes that his ace deserves to be judged on more than a couple of poor outings before he’s yanked out of the Friday spot.

“This gives us the best opportunity to win,” Holbrook said.

More of the same

The Gamecocks are getting no breaks in the SEC schedule with No. 22 Tennessee (19-4) coming to town. Under third-year coach Dave Serrano, the Volunteers have rebounded from a number of difficult seasons to become a factor in the conference race again.

USC and Tennessee are two of five teams tied for first place in the SEC East at 3-3. The Volunteers are hitting .295, with five starters over .300, and can run (49 stolen bases). The pitching has performed well, too.

“They’re excited. They’ve had a couple of tough years, but they feel like they have an NCAA tournament team, an Omaha-type team, and I agree with them,” Holbrook said. “It should be a heck of a challenge. It looks like the same challenge we had the first two weekends (against No. 13 Ole Miss and No. 19 Kentucky) in the league.”

Holbrook doesn’t see any 2-1 games with the hitters on both sides, which will put more importance on USC’s arms.

“Our pitching staff has got to keep us in the game, and they typically have. Hopefully, we can be in the game in the seventh or eighth inning and turn it over to our bullpen,” he said.

Rested and ready

Holbrook hopes catcher Grayson Greiner and second baseman Max Schrock can return to the lineup after sitting out the midweek games. Greiner’s bone bruise on his left thumb has Holbrook more concerned than Schrock’s sprained left ankle.

Both players said Thursday that they expect to play, although Greiner might need to wear a protective guard over his thumb. Schrock would like to play second base if he has enough maneuverability to play the position. If not, he’ll serve as the designated hitter. Holbrook noted that Greiner’s importance behind the plate handling the pitchers is as important to the team as his hitting.

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