CHAD HOLBROOK’S SQUAD NEEDS A BOUNCE-BACK SEASON
It’s been a difficult stretch for the University of South Carolina baseball program – which five years ago was embarking on its second consecutive national championship run. The Gamecocks posted a less-than-impressive 32-25 record last season – including a dismal 13-17 mark in Southeastern Conference play. As a result, they failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1999.
South Carolina is entering its fourth season under head coach Chad Holbrook – who took over the program from legendary coach Ray Tanner (now South Carolina’s athletics director) after the 2012 season.
In his first season at the helm (2013), Holbrook’s team went 43-20 and made it to the NCAA Super Regional in Chapel Hill, N.C. The following year, the Gamecocks posted a 44-18 mark but failed to make it out of their home regional for the first time since 1976.
Then came 2015’s middling effort … which was punctuated by a 9-14 finish.
Three seasons … three steps backward.
Holbrook’s team opens spring practice this weekend at Carolina Stadium, recently-rechristened “Founders Park” – for Founders Federal Credit Union. Three scrimmages will be open to the public – one on Friday at 4:00 p.m. EST, one Saturday at 1:00 p.m. EST and another Sunday at 1:30 p.m. EST.
How are the Gamecocks expected to perform in 2016?
Well, Baseball America is projecting three SEC teams – Florida, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt – to make the College World Series this year. Two additional SEC squads – Auburn and Mississippi – are projected as Super Regional champions.
South Carolina? Eh … the Gamecocks are unranked in the 2016 preseason Baseball America poll.
Two years ago we were optimistic about the status of the program under Holbrook.
“We fully expect Holbrook to reorient the trajectory of the program given the talent he’s brought in … as well as some of the stars he’s already landed for the 2015 class,” we wrote at the time.
The trajectory has yet to be reoriented, though … and Gamecock fans are growing impatient.
Rising sophomore Clarke Schmidt, a right-handed pitcher whose fastball tops out at 95 miles per hour, is one of several talented young players on Holbrook’s squad who could have breakthrough seasons this year. Let’s hope that happens.
Otherwise the temperature under Holbrook’s seat will only grow hotter …
South Carolina opens its 2016 campaign on February 19 against Albany. An annual three-game series against arch-rival Clemson will be held in early March, and SEC play opens on March 18 against Arkansas. For a look at the upcoming schedule, click here.