Sports

Gamecock Baseball Is Back!

HITTING STREAK, CLUTCH PITCHING POWER SOUTH CAROLINA’S RESURGENCE We wrote back in January about the University of South Carolina baseball program’s efforts to turn things around following a disappointing 2015 season. How is head coach Chad Holbrook‘s squad progressing? So far, so good … With fifteen games remaining on the regular season schedule…

HITTING STREAK, CLUTCH PITCHING POWER SOUTH CAROLINA’S RESURGENCE

We wrote back in January about the University of South Carolina baseball program’s efforts to turn things around following a disappointing 2015 season.

How is head coach Chad Holbrook‘s squad progressing?

So far, so good …

With fifteen games remaining on the regular season schedule (including a pair of critical series against the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation), the Gamecocks are 33-8 and ranked No. 6 nationally, according to the latest Baseball America poll.

They’ve also posted a 14-4 recored in the Southeastern Conference – home to seven of the top 11 programs in the country, according to the latest rankings.

Among the forces powering South Carolina’s resurgence?  Junior outfielder Gene Cone, who is hitting .377 (49-for-130) on the season with two homers, two triples, nine doubles, 18 RBI and 37 runs scored.  Cone was absolutely on fire during South Carolina’s weekend sweep of SEC rival Missouri, going 10-for-12 (.833) at the plate while scoring seven runs and knocking in another six.

The 6-foot-0, 175-pound Columbia, S.C. native (and former Spring Valley High School star) is also the author of an ongoing, school record 27-game hitting streak (this weekend he broke the record set in 2009-10 by former Gamecock great Whit Merrifield).

Cone’s run represents the longest active NCAA Division I streak – and puts him just two games shy of the longest hitting streak this season.

How does he stack up against the authors of other famous streaks?

Well, most baseball fans know about former New York Yankee great Joe DiMaggio‘s legendary 56-game hitting streak in 1941.  No player before or since at the major league level has come within ten games of that mark.

Of interest?  DiMaggio had an even longer hitting streak – 61 games – as an 18-year-old rookie for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1933.  His streak was eight games shy of the minor league record of 69 games – set in 1919 by Joe Wilhoit of the Witchita Jobbers of the Western League.

At the collegiate level, former Oklahoma State standout (and current Chicago White Sox manager) Robin Ventura holds the NCAA Division I record with a 58-game hitting streak.

Also powering South Carolina’s return to national prominence?  Pitching …

Freshman right-handed flamethrower Braden Webb has posted an 8-2 mark on the year – including five conference wins.  He currently ranks fourth in the SEC with 76 strikeouts (55 in conference play) – and opponents are batting just .198 against him.  Also throwing darts for the Gamecocks?  Hard-throwing right-handed sophomore Clarke Schmidt – who has posted an 8-1 record with a minuscule 2.04 ERA.  Freshman right-hander Adam Hill is another hurler having an impressive season – with a 6-0 record, 2.57 ERA and 58 strikeouts.

Bottom line?  Holbrook – whose seat was getting a bit hot at the start of the year – has silenced his critics up to this point in the season.  The young talent he recruited is paying dividends, and South Carolina is well-positioned for a return to postseason success.

(Pic via @GamecockBasebll)

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