South Carolina held its seventh fall scrimmage Friday with three freshman shining in their bids to earn playing time in their debut seasons next spring.
Highly recruited infielder Brennan Milone, who is expected to be the starting third baseman, has looked good throughout the fall and had another good day Friday with two hits, an RBI and a run scored.
Two freshman catchers also shined with Jax Cash going 3-for-3 with four RBI, and Colin Burgess going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Cash is only able to hit right now due to an arm injury but had what head coach Mark Kingston called “his best day by far.”
Burgess also looked good behind the plate, throwing out a baserunner and looking solid defensively. He looks to be contention to challenge senior transfers Dallas Beaver and Bryant Bowen for playing time.
“Burgess has been very workmanlike as a solid catcher, solid thrower, gives you good at-bats,” Kingston said. “He’s a guy who is going to help us in this program. He’s a baseball player.”
South Carolina has much more depth at catcher than last season, when Luke Berryhill caught all but one game. Beaver and Bowen, both grad transfers, can catch while Burgess and Cash will challenge for playing time. Wes Clarke, who is also playing first base, can also catch.
“The best man will win the job. We’ve got some good options there,” Kingston said. “My hope is that we don’t have to have one guy catch 60 games this year, with the other guy catching five or 10. We want to share it a little bit more liberally than we did last year.”
The Gamecocks scored 10 runs on 16 hits in the six-inning scrimmage that featured several simulated situations and five batters in each half-inning. Junior-college transfer Noah Myers, who is expected to be the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, hit a two-run homer while Andrew Eyster, the team’s leading hitter last year, had an RBI double and another hard-hit line drive.
A week after losing to NC State 15-5, Kington likes the approach of his hitters. After hitting .236 as a team last year, he’s looking for a more consistent, contact-based approach this season.
“We’ve always wanted to drive the ball and battle with two strikes, but I think we have more guys who have the ability to carry that out,” he said. “We’ve got veteran hitters who have been through the wars. It’s probably a little similar to two years ago when we had older guys who had a lot of at-bats at this level.
“I just feel like we take more professional at-bats, we’re tougher outs. If we get to two strikes, I think so far we are seeing the kind of offense that can do some things.”
The Gamecocks’ most impressive pitcher Friday was sophomore Daniel Lloyd, who was up to 94 mph on his fastball and struck out three of the first four batters he faced. He struck out four of the 10 batters he faced, allowing only two singles.
Kingston said Lloyd has been one of his most improved pitchers.
“He’s been very good. Assuming he can stay healthy and stay on that path, he’s going to have a huge role for us,” he said.
T.J. Shook, who made nine starts last year, and junior-college transfer Brannon Jordan started the game. Shook gave up two runs on four hits with three strikeouts, while Jordan allowed a run on two hits with one K. Left-handers Dylan Harley and R.J. Dantin and right-hander Trey Tujetsch also pitched, while junior left-hander John Gilreath continued his solid fall with a quality inning.
The pitchers had better command than they did last week against NC State, allowing just four walks and two hit batters in 12 innings pitched. Kingston said the emphasis Friday was attacking the strike zone.
“Attack the strike zone and play the odds,” he said “The odds are if they put it in play there is going to be somebody there to get an out so attack the strike zone, and I really saw a nice job of our pitchers doing that,” he said.